Parashat Toldot--Genesis 25:19-28:9
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Questions for Young Children

  • In Toldot, we read a story about Ya'akov and Eisav being born.  Do you know any stories about yourself when you were born?
  • Ya'akov and Eisav are twins who don't get along. Do you and your brother or sister ever fight?  How do you make up?
  • Ya'akov and Eisav don't look anything like each other.  Ya'akov dresses up as his brother to fool his dad.  Do you think you could ever fool your dad or mom into thinking you were your brother or sister?

Questions for Older Children

  • In Toldot, Ya'akov and Eisav are described as different from birth and they stay true to their character.  Eisav is called an ish tzayid--a hunter--and Ya'akov is called ish yoshev ohalim--a person who stays at home.  Do you think you can tell from babyhood what a person will be like?  Do you think it's fair to describe a person in just a few words?
  • Yitzhak has problems with his neighbor in Gerar over wells.  Why are they arguing about wells and how do they resolve the conflict?
  • Do you think when Eisav says he'll kill his brother Ya'akov after Ya'akov gets the better blessing from their dad that Eisav means what he threatens?  What did Rivkah tell Ya'akov to do?  Was that good advice or not?
  • When Eisav hears that Ya'akov has left home to find a wife in Paddan-Aram because Yitzhak didn't want him marrying a Canaanite, he goes to the tribe of Yishmael (Ishmael) to find another wife.  What does this tell you about Eisav?

Questions for Teens and Adults

  • One of the literary devices used in this parasha is the echo--what echoes of earlier parshiyot do you hear in this one and what motifs repeat within the parasha?
  • Deception runs throughout the parasha with Ya'akov shrewdly acquiring the birthright from his brother for a pot of lentils, Rivka helping Ya'akov gain the blessing of the first-born from Yitzhak, and Rivka covering up the real reason for Ya'akov leaving home and going to Paddan-Aram.  Yitzhak is also a deceiver in this parasha when he goes to Avimelekh in Gerar during the famine and tells Rivka to lie and say she's his sister.  What's your take away from all this deception?
  • How does Yitzhak handle foreign affairs differently than his father Avraham?  
  • How do women wield power in both the Avraham and Yitzhak narratives?
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1. Try a food centerpiece that reflects the brakha (blessing) given to Yaakov and Eisav.

Ya'akov's blessing from Genesis 27:28

--וְיִתֶּן-לְךָ, הָאֱלֹהִים, מִטַּל הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּמִשְׁמַנֵּי הָאָרֶץ--וְרֹב דָּגָן, וְתִירֹשׁ

May God give you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the earth and an abundance of grain and wine.

Eisav's blessing from Genesis 27:40

וְעַל-חַרְבְּךָ תִחְיֶה

You shall live by your sword.

Cube whole grain bread, thread it through with sword shaped toothpicks and place them around a carafe of grape juice or a bottle of wine. 

Discuss--who got the better blessing?

2. Place a map on the center of the table as a centerpiece and ask your guests to point out the place names mentioned in Parashat Toldot.

They include:  Me'ah Sh'arim (26:12)  Rehovot (26:22) and Beer'sheva  (26:23)

Yitzhak is commanded in Genesis 26:3: גּוּר בָּאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת --Live in this country.

    With that command in mind, go around the table naming as many places in Israel as you can and asking someone to indicate the place on the map.  If your guests have a wide knowledge of Israeli         geography, you can go around the table and alternate naming places according to the alef-bet.






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We move from the generation of Avraham and Sarah to Yitzhak and Rivkah in Parashat Toldot. Like Sarah, Rivkah has difficulty conceiving, but after Yitzhak pleads with God, she becomes pregnant with twins—contentious twins. The elder is big, red, and hairy and named Eisav (Esau) and the younger is called Ya'akov (Jacob).

The parasha sets up the rivalry immediately: Eisav is favored by Yitzhak and Ya'akov is favored by Rivkah. Eisav likes the outdoors, Ya'akov prefers staying indoors. The parasha climaxes with Eisav selling his birthright to Ya'akov for a bowl of lentil stew. The transaction, however, is not complete until chapter 27 when Yitzhak bestows the actual blessing of the first-born on Ya'akov. Ya'akov secures this blessing and the birthright through deceit aided by Rivkah. The end of the parasha finds Ya'akov on the run from Eisav and hunting for a wife from their own family back east in Paddan-aram.

Find the Food Connection....

.וַעֲשֵׂה-לִי מַטְעַמִּים כַּאֲשֶׁר אָהַבְתִּי, וְהָבִיאָה לִּי--וְאֹכֵלָה

Make me a tasty dish such as I like, and bring it to me to eat.
--Genesis 27: 4

A Tasty Dish!  Fudge Mint Torte!

 The Side Dish

When reading the past two parshiyot, I've been focused on the words that signify good food.  This week it's mat'amim and last week was migdanim.  During the month I was in Israel, I thought carefully about house gifts to bring my hosts as I visited friends across the country. One of the categories is, of course, food.  The problem has been selecting from the bounty of Eretz Yisrael.  Motz'ai Shabbat Vayeira I went with my cousins to  Moshav Nir Galim to visit my cousin's in-laws.  I made an extra recipe of cilantro pesto to bring so my cousin's mother-in-law could try it with chicken or fish without having to prepare the pesto herself.  In turn, of course, my cousin's in-laws sent us home with a giant bag of grapefruit  and pomelos from their trees.  What struck me most from the visit was not the food exchange, but, rather the storytelling. 

Toldot means generations and it's the Hebrew word that's used for history.  Toldot hamishpacha, the family history, of this particular family in Nir Galim includes a very dark chapter during the Shoah when so many family members were killed and the couple in front of me managed to survive.  I looked around at all the family photos crowding every surface. The patriarch of the family smiled at me and said, "three children, twelve grandchildren like the twelve tribes, twenty-two grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren.  That's our revenge."

We Jews have been able to survive and flourish through toldot--bearing witness to our history and believing in our future as we continue our family lines.  In this parasha we begin the saga of the twelve tribes with Ya'akov's birth, birthright appropriation, and exile to Lavan's where he'll marry his two wives and acquire two concubines.  Jewish History is the history of family sagas, from the family of Avraham to your family.  Share toldot hamishpacha, your family history, this week with your own family.







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A Dash of Gastonomic History and Speculation

Last year I suggested red lentil soup as the food match up for this parasha.  (You can find that recipe under soups on the home page).  The text echoes Eisav's other name, Edom (red), in describing the lentil dish as that "very red stuff." (Gen. 25:30) Apparently, Eisav's hunger overrode his ability as a food critic. So how likely is it that Ya'akov tempted Eisav with lentil stew?  Very likely.

Lentils have been found in many archaeological digs going back to 8000 BCE in Jericho, well before the patriarchal era. Unprepossessing in appearance, lentils are a powerful foodstuff. They are nutritional powerhouses -- a source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and minerals.  In addition to their nutritional benefits and the ease of cultivation in the Middle East, lentils may have been a major agent of social change in the Middle East as societies moved from nomadic to  agricultural.  According to some archaeologists the domestication of lentils led to the move from an egalitarian and communal society to a society of "haves" and "have-nots" marked by increased centralization of power. 

Notice in Toldot that Ya'akov represents the up and coming entrepreneur who is yosheiv ohalim--a dweller of tents.  While we might think he was a stay at home momma's boy, it may also mean Ya'akov was part of the trendy new permanent settlement and Eisav represented the old-fashioned way of the hunter-gatherers.  At the end of the parasha  Ya'akov is forced  to leave his settlement and head to Paddan-Aram where he will become a shepherd.  Of course, his entrepreneurial zeal is evident there as well as he (with God's help) prospers.

A Dash of Family Planning

All three avot (patriarchs) have fertility issues.  God promises Avraham that he'll be the father of many nations, but Sarah is barren. In this parasha Rivka has difficulty conceiving. Ya'akov has one wife and two concubines who are fertile, but his favorite wife, Rahel (Rachel) has difficulty conceiving. Each patriarch and matriarch take a different path to ensure the birth of an heir. Sarah gives Avraham her maid, Hagar, as a concubine while God has other plans for Avraham's heir and announces via three angels/messemgers that Sarah will have a son even at her advanced age.  Yitzhak prays to God for Rivka to conceive.  Subsequently, she becomes pregnant with twins.  Later in B'reishit God responds to Rahel's cries for children by opening her womb.

It's not surprising, then, that infertility is widely discussed in halakha since rabbinic times and is part of Israel's national conversation.  To see how Israelis approach infertility and medical insurance, see the Haaretz article:

A Dash of Video for Kids

Bimbam video tackles the moral you don't want your child to take away from this parasha--cheaters seem to prosper in Toldot. This website presents animated videos for each parasha







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Fudge Mint Torte
Pareve -- Serves 12 or more

As long as you use real liqueur, the pareve margarine, chocolate chips, and Kinneret whipping cream will meld together for a superb torte. Of course, it’s even tastier if it’s a dairy cake. Substitute Crème de Menthe with coffee or almond liqueur and you have an entirely different torte. Warning: Don’t make the filling ahead of time. Liquor doesn’t freeze well. You can bake the cake layers, freeze them, and then add the cream filling on Thursday night or Friday to serve for Shabbat dinner.


Cakersz creme de menthe copy

  • 1 12 oz. package of semisweet chocolate chips*
  • 1 cup  (2 sticks) of pareve margarine
  • 1-1/2 cups. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups flour


  • 2 cups pareve whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup green Crème de Menthe
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar


  • Shaved bittersweet chocolate


  1. Preheat oven to 375º.
  2. Line the bottoms of three  9” round pans with parchment paper. Spray with cooking oil and set aside.
  3. Combine the chocolate chips and margarine in a saucepan and place over very low heat till melted.
  4. Place the chocolate mixture in a mixing bowl and allow to cool about 10 min.
  5. Beat in the sugar.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time and mix well.
  7. Add vanilla.
  8. Add flour until well blended.
  9. Pour into the pans, trying to divide the batter equally.
  10. Bake 15-20 min. until tops spring back when lightly touched.
  11. Cool the cakes in the pans at least 10 min. and then flip out on wire racks to cool.
  12. Once the layers are cooled you can add the cream filling or freeze the individual layers for later.


  1. Whip together the Crème de Menthe, whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff.
  2. Place 1/3 of the mixture on top of each layer and stack.
  3. Finish with shaved chocolate.

*Make sure to check the size of the bag. Kosher chocolate chips are packaged in increasingly smaller sized amounts.

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