Below is a collection of Parashat Toldot resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
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DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: Is it ok to seize an opportunity even if it means not being kind? When Esau returns hungry and tired from the field, he finds Jacob preparing soup and asks for some. Jacob sees an opportunity to acquire the birthright (which he feels Esau does not deserve) and demands it as payment. It seems that Esau doesn’t even want the birthright. Should Jacob have taken advantage of this opportunity?
Look inside the text (Bereshit 25: 29-34),
וַיָּזֶד יַעֲקֹב נָזִיד וַיָּבֹא עֵשָׂו מִן הַשָּׂדֶה וְהוּא עָיֵף – Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, hungry
וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו אֶל יַעֲקֹב הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם הַזֶּה כִּי עָיֵף אָנֹכִי עַל כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמוֹ אֱדוֹם – And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, because I am hungry”—which is why he was named Edom
וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב מִכְרָה כַיּוֹם אֶת בְּכֹרָתְךָ לִי – Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.”
וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ לָמוּת וְלָמָּה זֶּה לִי בְּכֹרָה – And Esau said, “I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?”
וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב הִשָּׁבְעָה לִּי כַּיּוֹם וַיִּשָּׁבַע לוֹ וַיִּמְכֹּר אֶת בְּכֹרָתוֹ לְיַעֲקֹב – But Jacob said, “Promise me first.” So he promised him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.
וְיַעֲקֹב נָתַן לְעֵשָׂו לֶחֶם וּנְזִיד עֲדָשִׁים וַיֹּאכַל וַיֵּשְׁתְּ וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלַךְ וַיִּבֶז עֵשָׂו אֶת הַבְּכֹרָה – Jacob then gave Esau bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank, and he got up and went away. In that way, Esau wasted his birthright.
Question #2: Is new always better? Is it sometimes better to continue with the “old” ways? Is innovation always needed, or is there a value to maintaining tradition? When the Philistines fill up the wells dug by Abraham, Isaac does not dig new wells, but he digs up those same wells and even gives them the same names as his father did. In many ways, Isaac is not an innovator but follows the path of his father.
Look inside the text (Bereshit 26:18),
וַיָּשָׁב יִצְחָק וַיַּחְפֹּר אֶת בְּאֵרֹת הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו וַיְסַתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקְרָא לָהֶן שֵׁמוֹת כַּשֵּׁמֹת אֲשֶׁר קָרָא לָהֶן אָבִיו – Isaac dug again the wells which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death; and he gave them the same names that his father had given them.
Question #3: God gives a message to Rebecca about her children, yet there is no indication that she shared that message with Isaac. How might the story have turned had God NOT delivered that message to her? How might the story have turned out had she shared that message with Isaac? How might the story be different had Jacob and Esau told Isaac about the sale of the birthright?
Question #4: Following in his father’s footsteps, Isaac tells Avimelekh that Rebecca is his sister. How important is it to be truthful? Are there circumstances in which it is justified to say things that are not true? How should someone feel about having to violate their own word? What dangers does such a practice, even if justified, carry for the person who is dishonest?
LESSON PLANS AND ARTICLES
A Tikkun: Rebekah and Eve – This article explores the connections between the stories of Eve in the Garden of Eden and Rebecca and her two sons.
Lentil Soup for Parashat Toldot – This recipe for lentil soup connects to the parasha theme, when Jacob sold his birthright to Esau for a bowl of lentil soup.