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A Dvar Torah for Parshat Toldot

Our Dvar Torah: Choices: Esau or Ya'akov?
A Dvar Torah for Parshat Toldot: Genesis 25:19 - 28:9
By Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © November 3, 2021

Choices are all around us. They often come in dualities. Consider:

Darkness or Light
Evening or Morning
Cain or Abel
Raven or Dove
Ishmael or Yitzach
Reuven or Yosef
Menashe or Ephraim?
King Saul or King David
Costco or Sam's Club!

There are always choices! Some choices are better than others, some are simply a matter of preference: chocolate or vanilla ice cream. The origin of choice is our free will. Free will requires there be choices and making choices requires free will. It is through free will that we choose either the awe of or the fear of HaShem, the blessings or the curses. As the Scripture says: Choose this day whom you will serve: Derech HaShem or Derech HaShaitan.

The Torah tells us that Elohim "formed" us with this fundamental nature. Genesis 2:7 confirms this with the word "formed" or yetzer, G-d "formed" us with a dual nature. The rabbis noticed this word is spelled differently than normal in this passage. Instead of a single yud (or 'y'), it has two yuds instead of one as we would expect (וַיִּ֩יצֶר֩). From this, they concluded that humans, unlike other species of life, are formed with a dual nature: yetzer hatov (the positive inclination) and yetzer hara (the negative inclination). Based on this, the Creator endowed humanity with the ability to choose between opposites as free moral agents.

Adam and Chavah (Eve) chose the way of yetzer hara and hence were banished from Gan Eden. The choices we make have consequences! Because of this choice, their generations ("toldot" in Hebrew) continued in error, more inclined towards the negative than the positive. 

When the Creator created everything the generations ("toldot") were perfect. As we read at Genesis 2:4: Such is the story of heaven and earth when they were created [תֹולְדֹות]. When the LORD God made earth and heaven— 

But something happened. The balance was broken by Adam and Chava's choice, as recorded at Genesis 2:7. This is demonstrated in the word toldot (generations). Now the generations were fractured in the Hebrew word Toldot. Notice how the word toldot is spelled, תולדות, with two vavs at the creation. Yet, when the genealogy of Adam is recorded, one vav is missing:

In Hebrew every letter is significant.

And it gets worse! In the genealogy of Yishmael, it becomes even more defective, as the word Toldot is now missing TWO vavs:

וְאֵלֶּה תֹּלְדֹת יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן־אַבְרָהָם

“And these are the generations of Yishmael…”  Genesis 25:12

Will the vavs ever be restored? YES!

Ruth 4:18 contains a secret to the restoration of the vavs. It says: This is the line of Perez: Perez begot Hezron...

Rashi notes on this verse: Since he traced David’s genealogy on Ruth’s name, he returns and traces it on Judah’s name.

Who is being referenced then? HaMashiach, the Lion of the House of Judah.

 Concerning this, the Midrash comments:

“R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Samuel b. Nahman: Though these things were created in their fullness, yet when Adam sinned they were spoiled, and they will not again relustero their perfection until the son of Perez [ie HaMessiah ben David] comes; [for in the verse] “These are the toledoth (generations) of Perez”, toledoth is spelled fully, with a vav. These are they: [1] his luster, [2] his immortality, [3] his height, [4] the fruit of the earth and [5] the fruit of trees, and [6] the luminaries.”

 Genesis Rabbah 12:6, Soncino Press Edition

The line of Perez is the line David haMelech, whose claim to the throne of Israel is unending. Through David's offspring, Mashiach son of David comes, and the' "vav' is restored to the generations because through Ya'akov all the families of the earth are and will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). With the victory of our father Ya'akov over Esau, the Holy Family of Israel branched forth. Through the Promises given to Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya'akov of the redeemer, the Way of haMashiach ben David is made certain. 

Without going into too much detail here, Esau was the firstborn and presumed heir of Avraham's lineage. Like the first Globalist ruler Nimrod, he was a mighty hunter in opposition to G-d. He was a wild man, like Y'ishmael and even married into that rejected family. He was loved by Yitzhak, who was blind. He sold his birthright for temporary pleasures, and he is known as Edom, meaning red (with blood) and hairy (Seir).

Consider Ya'akov on the other hand: he was the second born. He did not presume leadership, hence he was humble. He wanted to use the blessings, wealth, and power of Avraham to serve God, hence he grasped Esau's heel and struggled with him within the womb of their mother, knowing Esau would not use that authority properly. Ya'akov was a perfect (Hebrew: 'tam') man, unlike Esau who was so flawed by the yetzer hara. Ya'akov's family dwelled in civilized tents, rather than as animals like Esau's. He was loved by Rivkah, who could see clearly. He bought his birthright by using practical earthly means, hence seeking to unite the spiritual and the material in service of the Covenant. His name was declared Y'israel by G-d Himself because he "struggled" for everything he received and he always gave HaShem the praise and the thanks for all of his achievements.

Rebbe Nachman says,

“Ya'akov will never allow Esau to be victorious and trap forever the souls waiting for rectification. He will grab hold of Esau and eventually remove those souls from his grip.”

When does the line of Ya'akov and Perez accomplish this? It is when HaMashiach ben David establishes the Kingdom of HaShem on earth, may that day come soon.

In the end take heart:

Avraham wins, 

  Ya'akov wins!

    David HaMelech wins,

      We all win! All those who choose the Way of God win and have a place in the Olam Haba.

Choices must always be made. Will you choose the way of Ya'akov or the way of Esau?

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