One Minute Torah: Toledot 5780

The story of Jacob and Esau should challenge us everyday.

This week’s One Minute Torah is from the archives.

“The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”

This week’s parshah is Toldot (תוֹלדוֹת), from the same root as יֶלֶד, child, and roughly translates “genealogy”. “This is the genealogy of Isaac.” Isaac had two children: the bookish Jacob, and the hairy Esau. But the Torah is our story, and only Jacob is our ancestor. He is the smarter son, future CEO material. The Torah describes Jacob as תָם, which can mean simple or honest, a straight-shooter. He’s not like that brutish Esau, who’s always out shooting animals, and is ready to toss away a position of honor for a bowl of lentils.

But Isaac loves Esau. So Jacob let’s their mother convince him to fool the elderly patriarch. While Esau’s out hunting wild game for their dad, Jacob slaughters a goat from their flock, Rebecca prepares the stew, and she covers Jacob’s hands and neck with the animal’s hairy hide. In this way, Jacob comes before Isaac to steal Esau’s blessing.

“The voice is the voice of Jacob,” Isaac says to himself. Isaac hears our voice, right? The voice of the people of the book, the ones with the true values, who appreciate blessing.

“But the hands are the hands of Esau.” Now everything is confused. Jacob is supposed to be the honest one, Esau the one you can’t trust. Whose hands are these, anyway?

The story of Jacob and Esau should challenge us everyday. Are we saying what we mean? Do we own up to our opinions, gently and respectfully engaging when we disagree? Or do we hide behind snarky comments, faceless emails, indirect criticisms- goat hides that protect us from conflict and from the possibility of creating real change?

Your innermost voice is the true voice of Jacob. Respectful, smart, honest. Let that voice guide the hands you extend to your family, our community, our world.