Friday, November 28, 2008

Thoughts On Parshat Toldot 5769

25:30-26:1 Chapter divisions mislead us. It is parsha and aliyah division that show us the Jewish understanding of how the text ought to be divided. This struck me upon hearing the second Aliyah read, and the phrase "ויהי רעב בארץ" coming on the heel of Esau's selling his birthright for food. If the episode takes place in the context of a famine, then Esau's exhaustion is understandable - no rain, no browse; no browse, no deer. The hunter cannot hunt when there is no prey. Thus Esau turns to Jacob, but produce too is at a premium, and Jacob will not relinquish it for less than the birthright. If we follow the principle that what happens to the Patriarchs foreshadows what happens to their descendants, then we see a foreshadowing of the Egyptians surrendering their freeholds to become sharecroppers to Pharaoh in exchange for grain from Joseph's granaries in this interchange between Jacob and Esau.

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