Toledot

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My mother once told me, “I hope you have twins!”¬†Without insulting those born in sets, I was always wary of this comment, this parental “blessing”. What does it look like when two people’s lives are so uniquely intertwined?

In this portion, twins are distinguished from one another by their words and deeds. We are told that one is a hunter, while the other stays closer to home (Gen. 25:27). The crux of the narrative comes when Jacob (the homebody) trades Esau (the outdoorsman) food for birthright and blessing. The men are placed in opposition to one another, and yet, we cannot reduce them to good and evil, hero and villain. Avivah Zornberg, a modern Israeli scholar notes that while Jacob may inherit the birthright of his father, Isaac, he is also deceived when he believes he has married one woman, Rachel, but finds himself married to her sister, Leah. They have their own story too.

The pairs in this parshah are not accidental. All too often, we split the world into an us and a them, even if experience tells us that the lines are never so clear. The text points us away from these false dichotomies, but more than that, it begs a question: What happens when we see the other in ourselves?

Read on: Full Parshah Text.