TOLDOS (Genesis, 25:19-28:9) — “Double Trouble”

This week we are introduced to twin brothers with almost nothing in common — “Esau, the expert in hunting, a man of the field; and Jacob, a pure-hearted man, who dwelled in the house (of Torah study).” (Genesis, 25:27)

Esau was the outdoorsman, Jacob was the scholar.  Esau was irreverent and in pursuit of all of the physical pleasures of this world, moral or otherwise.  Jacob was the righteous son who walked in the ways of his illustrious forebears, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca.

Jacob is the father of our people; Esau is the ideological father of the anti-Semites of the world. Indeed, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai tells us in the Sifri, “Esau (as well as his disciples) is a sworn enemy of Jacob (Israel).”

Being a crafty individual and a con man of the highest order, Esau managed to convince his father Isaac that he was righteous and deserving of Isaac’s blessings. Rebecca, however, having grown up with a brother like Laban (more about him next week), knew a phony when she saw one. With Divine assistance, Rebecca assisted Jacob in receiving the blessings that were rightfully his.

Despite his wickedness, Esau appreciated the value of a blessing from a holy man like his father, and vowed to take revenge: “The days of mourning for my father are coming soon; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” (27:41)

One Mitzvah that was very important even to a scoundrel like Esau was honoring his father; he would never do anything to hurt Isaac. He would wait patiently for his father’s death before murdering his brother. But why did he say, “The days of mourning for my father are coming”? Why didn’t he just say, “When my father dies, I’ll kill Jacob?” Why the emphasis on mourning?

The Kli Yakar explains in his commentary that Esau was well aware of the nature of the blessing that Isaac had given to Jacob. He understood that protection from his enemies would only come when he would involve himself in the study and observance of Torah. If Jacob would become lax in his dedication to G-d’s will, there were no guarantees of Divine protection from the enemies of Israel.

So what does this have to do with mourning? Upon Isaac’s death, Jacob would begin the seven-day period of mourning known as Shiva. The Kli Yakar explains that Esau realized that a mourner during Shiva is prohibited from studying Torah! Esau understood that G-d would protect Jacob as long as he studied Torah, and assumed that a break from this intensive involvement in learning G-d’s ways would leave him vulnerable.

Logically, the Jewish People should not exist. After thousands of years of persecution, pogroms, public burnings, and Holocausts, Esau has still not succeeded, thank G-d, in his plot to eradicate our nation. Why not? Because of the Eternal Covenant of Torah. We have a mission in the world. It is our sacred duty to study, teach, and live G-d’s Word. That is our purpose; that is our raison d’etre.


Are you frustrated over your inability to bring peace to the Middle East? Does it anger you that you are powerless to overcome the evils of “Esau” Arafat and his murderous mobs? YOU ARE NOT POWERLESS. Call your Congressman. Write to your Senator. Send a letter to the editor of your local paper.

 THEN DO SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT!. Do a Mitzvah. Give some charity. Go to a Torah class, and then open a Siddur or a book of Psalms and pray your heart out. G-d has promised that He will never abandon Jacob. We have to make sure to keep our side of the bargain.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz



“The So-Called ‘Rabbi’” 

I don’t look down on people who don’t share Torah Judaism’s view of our obligations to G-d.  I try very hard not to put down Jews who believe differently than I.  I believe, quite simply, that in most cases, they have not had the opportunity to learn and to come to understand what Torah is really all about.

But one thing that really bugs me is when people misrepresent Torah Judaism.

Perhaps you read about the travesty that took place in  Washington,  DC last week.

Read More.


“Something Smells Rotten in the State of Beersheba” (2009)

… The blessing of a holy man like Isaac carries a great deal of weight… Esau no longer possessed the legal status of the firstborn.  He was not entitled to Isaac’s blessing.

 … Rebecca set out to save Isaac’s blessing for Jacob … She placed goat hides on smooth-skinned Jacob so he would feel like his hairy brother if Isaac touched him.  She dressed him in Esau’s special garment, which had once belonged to Adam.

 The ruse went well…

 when he realized that he had blessed the “wrong” son, he saw Gehinnom (loose and largely inaccurate translation: “hell”) open up under Esau…

Read more.


“Like Father, Like Son” (2008)

…  Abraham had been married to Sarah for decades without children.  Then she was abducted for a short time by Abimelech, the Philistine king.  A short time later, Sarah was pregnant.  It didn’t take much for the “Yentahs” in the neighborhood to start spreading nasty rumors as to the paternity of Isaac.

In order to stop the rumors…

Read more.


“Closed Eyes and Closed Mouths” (2006) 

Abraham had a total of eight sons.  However, most of them did not represent the future of Israel.  Abraham passed his legacy on to his second son Isaac …

Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.  Who would be the standard bearer of the descendents of Isaac?

Esau was perhaps the greatest con man who ever lived.  He managed to pull the wool over the eyes of his father Isaac … his mother, however, was not impressed…

Read more.


“Red Beans and Redskins” (2003) 

… In my 20+ years as a rabbi, I have learned that there are certain “safe” topics. (E.g., loving your fellow man and giving charity) Some topics are more “iffy,” (Sabbath observance and Kashruth) while others are downright volatile (intermarriage and “terminating” pre-born children). Many listeners and readers want a rabbi to inspire and uplift them, but only as long as he minds his own #$%&*#@*! business.

… there have been times that I’ve managed to get lots of people upset with me. Today’s topic fits into that category. So, I hope you’ll read this with an open mind. If you agree, that’s great. If you disagree, there’s always next week! 🙂 …

Read more.


“An ‘FFB’ Marries a ‘BT’” (2002)

… They were an unusual couple…

His father was a respected scholar. Her father was known to his neighbors as a degenerate. He had attended the finest Yeshiva. She was self-taught. In his youth, he had been insulated from the evils of the outside world. She had lived in the outside world.

His family welcomed her. Her family wasn’t thrilled about the marriage. She had told them that she was marrying him whether they liked it or not.

Could this marriage work?…

Read more.


“Walking the Talk” (2001)

In an unprecedented act of “Divinely endorsed deception,” Jacob embarks upon a mission to fool his father. Jacob is an honest and gentle man, while his brother Esau is a rogue and a fraud. Esau has managed to fool his blind father Isaac into thinking that he is worthy of receiving his blessing…

Rebecca understands the true nature of her wicked son Esau. She has been given the prophetic message that this miscarriage of justice cannot be permitted to take place. She places goatskin on Jacob’s smooth-skinned arms so that he will feel like his hairy brother Esau. She assures him that under these unusual circumstances, it is permitted to mislead his father into thinking that he is Esau…

Still, Jacob was uncomfortable with the ruse. He understood that this was necessary. His mother was a prophetess, and she said that this had to be done… Yet, pretending to be someone he wasn’t didn’t sit well with Jacob…

Read more.


“Double Trouble” (2000) 

…One Mitzvah that was very important even to a scoundrel like Esau was honoring his father; he would never do anything to hurt Isaac. He would wait patiently for his father’s death before murdering his brother. But why did he say, “The days of mourning for my father are coming”? Why didn’t he just say, “When my father dies, I’ll kill Jacob?” Why the emphasis on mourning?…

Read more.


This is the weekly message at Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel ( and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.


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Published in: on November 30, 2000 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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