WWOT – Weekly Words of Torah: Parashat Toldot

To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, Executive Director, Women’s League For Conservative Judaism

This week’s reading, Parashat Toldot, always makes me think of lentil soup and sibling rivalry. It is the classic story of immediate gratification for two brothers who crave something that the other has. Esau, who has come home very hungry after hunting, makes a deal with his brother Jacob, who is in the midst of making lentil soup. Esau will get the soup while his “younger by minutes” twin brother Jacob will get Esau’s birthright and all of its privileges. The brothers, and even their parents, Isaac and Rebecca, behave in less than honorable ways in order to ensure that one of them – for Isaac, it was Esau; for Rebecca, it was Jacob – gained that much-desired birthright. So, if we know that usually nothing good can come from deceiving people to get what you want, what positive lessons can be taught from this parashah?

Every week, as I have been preparing my WWOT, Weekly Words of Torah, I have been trying to see how perhaps each parashah might relate to our Torah Fund theme for this year: Atid or Future. Last week, I connected Atid to the weekly parashah by discussing pre-planned funeral arrangements. This week, we can all be like Isaac and prepare our blessings for our families. (Once it is clear that Jacob has absconded with the birthright, Isaac gives Esau a blessing of his own in place of the birthright, which is also represented by blessings.) We can orally give our blessings to our families or, perhaps, like my colleague Rabbi Elana Zaiman suggests in her book, The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe for Those We Love, we can write a letter to our loved ones, passing on our wisdom, humbling experiences, and dreams, as well as our true love for them. Inspired by the centuries-old Jewish tradition of the ethical will, it is a gift that will be read over and over again by the people who matter to us most. Creating a forever letter is a wonderful way to prepare for the atid, the future, as well as facilitate a journey of self-discovery for our loved one who receives it.

WWOT, Weekly Words of Torah will be a brief paragraph prepared weekly by our new Executive Director, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, presented in our “This Week @ Women’s League.” WWOT will provide meaningful thoughts related to the Weekly Torah Portion, an event on the Calendar, a Prayer, or something of Jewish interest, to inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women. If you have any particular interest in future topics, or want to send Rabbi Wolintz-Fields an email, you can contact her at ewolintz-fields@wlcj.org. Read previous Weekly Words of Torah here.