Toldot תשפ”ד

Antisemitism (Hatred of Jews), a phenomenon that dates back to the Jewish
sojourn in Egypt, has perplexed pundits, Jew and non-Jew alike, for millennia.
What is the source of the world’s deep hatred for us?
Were the Jewish people a militant bunch, one that did nothing good and only
bothered others, one might be able to explain it. The Jewish people, however, are
the most peaceful and productive nation on the planet! They want only to be left
alone to live their lives in peace; and the world hates us for that, too! There is no
logic to it whatsoever. Whatever we do, the world finds a way of using as an
excuse to hate us.
Theodore Hertzel, after being burned by the obvious discrimination in the
Dreyfus trial, felt compelled to solve the problem. He theorized that the source of
the hatred toward the Jews came from the perception that the Jewish people
were parasites, always attaching themselves to other nations and extracting their
existence from the blood of their host countries. If only the Jewish nation had a
country of its own, it would garner respect and be treated like any other legitimate
But it didn’t happen. Despite the emergence of a Jewish State, the State of
Israel, nothing has changed. Indeed, some have argued that having a Jewish state
has actually worsened matters. The anti-Semites leverage their claims against
Israel to legitimize their antisemitism and to spew their hate openly and vocally.
Today we witness this phenomenon, as so many pro- Arab groups have
emerged to protest Israel’s right to protect its citizens. Still, if we understood what
caused this inherent dislike for the Jewish people, we could possibly devise
strategies to combat it and stop suffering from it.
In this week’s portion, Toldot, the Torah teaches us the source of
antisemitism. And if we carefully and properly study what the Torah has to tell us,
we will understand the true source of the problem and emerge with the tools to
rout it from its source.


Our parsha begins with Yitzchak and Rivka who have been married for 20
years and have not been blessed with children. Indeed, our Sages tell us that they
both were physically unable to do so, but Yitzchak knew that he and his righteous
wife Rivka were destined to continue Avraham and Sarah’s legacy. It must be, they
reasoned, that Hashem wanted them to beseech Him for the child that will
accomplish that holy task. Imploring Hashem for a child, their request was granted
and, miraculously, Rivka conceived.
As her pregnancy progressed, Rivka grew concerned about the child she was
carrying. The Torah tells us, “The children agitated within her.” Rashi’s comment
reveals the source of the distress. When Rivka passed a holy place, she would feel
rumbling in her womb, as if the child wanted to come out; and when she passed a
place of idol worship, she felt the same rumbling. Not knowing that she was
carrying twins, this presented her with a problem: she was obviously carrying one
very mixed-up child. How could one fetus have leanings to both the holy and
To seek to assuage her concerns, Rivka paid a visit to a prophet – Shem, the
son of Noah- to find out what was going on. This is what Hashem told her (Genesis
(כג) וַיֹּאמֶר יְדֹוָד לָהּ שְׁנֵי גֹייִם {גוֹיִם} בְּבִטְנֵךְ וּשְׁנֵי לְאֻמִּים מִמֵּעַיִךְ יִפָּרֵדוּ וּלְאֹם מִלְאֹם יֶאֱמָץ
וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר:

  1. And Hashem said to her – “Two nations are in your womb; two regimes from
    your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other,
    and the elder shall serve the younger.”
    Knowing that she was carrying twins answered her principal query, but, at
    the same time, presented a new challenge: Two children with opposite natures
    would surely have their share of sibling rivalry, though this is not necessarily bad.
    Each person is different, and through making the right choices to control one’s
    negative tendencies, everyone can be a good person.


The boys were born and shared a pretty similar childhood. Once they hit the
age of thirteen, however, things changed rapidly. The Torah tells us (Genesis

(כז) וַיִּגְדְּלוּ הַנְּעָרִים וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד אִישׁ שָׂדֶה וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם ישֵׁב אֹהָלִים:

  1. The lads grew up (became 13, and at that point) and Esau became one
    who knows hunting, a man of the field; but Jacob was a wholesome man, abiding
    in tents. Esav was a hunter and a man of the world whose evil inclination
    influenced him to commit the most severe crimes. The Midrash informs us that
    Esav was an extremely accomplished hunter and was considered the world’s best.
    He was greatly feared and could get away with anything. He was a murderer, an
    adulterer, and an idolator. He was the child in the womb who sought to exit when
    Rivka passed a place of idol worship.
    Yaakov, on the other hand, studied Torah day and night and become a very
    holy man, preparing himself to become the greatest forefather of the Jewish
    nation. He was the child who sought to exit when passing a place of Torah study.
    A critical question calls out for an answer: Yitzchak and Rivka’s inherent
    inability to have children required a miracle. We understand Yaakov’s miraculous
    birth because, after all, Yaakov, more than his grandfather and father, Avraham
    and Yitzchak, became the kernel of the Jewish people, embodying the 12 tribes
    who comprised the entire Jewish nation. This is why the Sages identify Yaakov as
    the בחיר שבאבות – The select forefather. But why did Hashem make a miracle to
    create Yaakov’s evil adversary, Esav? Where is the logic? Why, from the moment
    of conception, is Esav there alongside Yaakov? Why would Hashem make a miracle
    to produce an evil person who would challenge Yaakov at every turn?
    The answer is that even though Esav had evil tendencies, he would not
    necessarily have to be an evil person. Although he had a greater share of evil
    within him, he was as well endowed with an equally greater share of mental ability
    to deal with his situation. He had the choice of how to run his life and could have
    been totally righteous had he desired.


Rabbi Aharon Kotler of blessed memory (d. 1963) cites the Vilna Gaon who
quotes the Zohar, which says:
רישיה דעשו בהדיה אבוהון דעלמא גניז היינו כמפורש בחז”ל שראש עשו נקבר במערת
המכפלה וזה משום ההשגות הגדולות והגבוהות של עשו
“Esav’s head is buried in מערת המכפלה (Mearat Hamachpelah) with the
forefathers and foremothers.”
Explains Rabbi Kotler: Esav’s head merited burial in such a holy place with the
other holy people buried there to indicate the tremendous holy thoughts and
ideas that Esav had in his head. Unfortunately, he did not act on them, but
succumbed to his physical urges and desires.
Had Esav chosen to be righteous, he could have used his great wealth to
support Yaakov’s Torah study so that Yaakov would be able to learn Torah without
worry as to the source of his sustenance, which is what Zevulun, one of Yaakov’s
sons, did for his brother Yissachar. Zevulun was a merchant who split his profits
with his brother Yissachar so that the latter could dedicate himself to the study of
Torah without having to worry about the source of his next meal. Had Esav chosen
this path, Yaakov’s future would have been guaranteed; he would have had no
rival, and, to the contrary, he would have had constant support and sustenance
without worry or trouble. This would have been a win – win situation. Yaakov
would have what he needed in this world, and Esav would earn a place in the
world to come through his support of Yaakov’s Torah.
This is why, when the time came for Yitzchak to bless his children, he wanted
to give the primary blessing for wealth to Esav. Esav had duped his father into
thinking that he was righteous, and Yitzchak assumed that Esav would support his
holy brother Yaakov. Therefore, Yitzchak felt, Esav would need abundant blessing
so he could do his holy task without difficulty.
Rivka overheard Yitzchak, who was by then blind, telling Esav to prepare a
festive meal for him, so that he should give him a bountiful blessing. Rivka knew
that Esav was a faker and had fooled his father into thinking that he was righteous,
and she realized that if Esav received the blessing for worldly wealth, he would


share none of it with his brother Yaakov. Yaakov would have to interrupt Torah
learning to earn a livelihood or he would starve to death. Realizing that this would
be the end of the Torah, which requires total dedication without interruption,
Rifka told Yaakov that he must get to his father with the festive meal before Esav
did to receive the blessing instead of Esav. This way he would have a blessing for
sustenance and be able to subsist without Esav’s support.
Yaakov objected to his mother, “How could I fool father into thinking I am
Esav? Esav is hairy person, and I am not. What if father decides to feel my arms
and discovers that I am trying to steal the blessing from Esav. He will give me a
curse instead of a blessing!” Rivka said that she had a prophesy that this would not
Rivka prepared the festive meal for Yitzchak, dressed Yaakov in one of Esav’s
garments so he would smell like Esav, an outdoorsman, and placed goat skins on
his arms and neck so that he would feel like Esav, and then sent him in to his
When Yaakov spoke in his usual gentle manner, Yitzchak became suspicious
and asked Yaakov to come closer so that he could feel him. When indeed Yaakov
felt hairy, Yitzchak was convinced that he was Esav and gave him the blessing.
This is the blessing that Yitzchak bestowed upon Yaakov.

(כח) וְיִתֶּן לְךָ הָאֱלֹהִים מִטַּל הַשָּׁמַיִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּי הָאָרֶץ וְרֹב דָּגָן וְתִירשׁ:
(כט) יַעַבְדוּךָ עַמִּים וְיִשְׁתַּחֲוֻ לְךָ לְאֻמִּים הֱוֵה גְבִיר לְאַחֶיךָ וְיִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לְךָ בְּנֵי אִמֶּךָ אֹרֲרֶיךָ
אָרוּר וּמְבָרֲכֶיךָ בָּרוּךְ
28) “And may Hashem give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fatness
of the earth, and abundant grain and wine. 29) Peoples will serve you, and regimes
will prostrate themselves to you; be a lord to your kinsmen, and your mother’s
sons will prostrate themselves to you; cursed be they who curse you, and blessed
be they who bless you.”
As if in a play, as soon as Yaakov left the room, Esav entered with his festive
meal for his father requesting his blessing. Yitzchak asked, “Who are you?” Esav
responded, “Why, I am Esav your eldest son!” To which Yitzchak said, “Then who


was it that just brought me a festive meal from which I ate and to whom I gave a
blessing? He keeps the blessing.”
At this point, Yitzchak realized that he had been mistaken about Esav. If
Hashem had turned things around such that Yaakov received the blessing, he must
be the one who is rightfully entitled to it. Therefore, Yitzchak said to Esav, “He
keeps the blessing.”
Esav was livid. Having grown up in the house with holy people such as
Avraham and Yitzchak, Esav understood that a blessing from his father Yitzchak
would not just be a good wish for him. Rather, his holy words would create the
reality, and they will always be true. He understood what he had lost by his
brother’s subterfuge and let out a long and bitter scream asking his father to give
him the blessing also. When Yitzchak informed him that that blessing belongs to
Yaakov and isn’t suitable for him, he said to his father. “Have you only one
blessing, father? Bless me too!”
Ultimately, Yitzchak gave Esav this blessing (27:39,40).
(לט) וַיַּעַן יִצְחָק אָבִיו וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו הִנֵּה מִשְׁמַנֵּי הָאָרֶץ יִהְיֶה מוֹשָׁבֶךָ וּמִטַּל הַשָּׁמַיִם מֵעָל:
(מ) וְעַל חַרְבְּךָ תִחְיֶה וְאֶת אָחִיךָ תַּעֲבֹד וְהָיָה כַּאֲשֶׁר תָּרִיד וּפָרַקְתָּ עֻלּוֹ מֵעַל צַוָּארֶךָ:

  1. So Isaac his father answered, and said to him – “Behold, of the fatness of the
    earth shall be your dwelling and of the dew of the heavens from above: 40. By your
    sword you shall live, but your brother you shall serve; yet it shall be that when you
    are aggrieved, you may cast off his yoke from upon your neck.”
    Until now, Yitzchak had assumed that Esav was born of the same miracle as
    Yaakov, even though he was a hunter and man of the world, so that he should
    provide support to Yaakov’s learning. Now recognizing that Esav was not righteous
    and was not here to support his brother financially, Yitzchak realized that he had a
    different vital role to play, viz, to keep Yaakov – Yaakov.
    How so? This was Yitzchak’s strategy.
    Yaakov and the Jewish nation are the purpose of creation. Their job in this
    world is to be the Hashem’s ambassadors and teach the world about Hashem


through their example. As Rashi reveals to us in his comments to the Torah’s first
verse (Genesis 1:1).

(א) בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹקים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ:

In the beginning of Hashem’s creating the heavens and the earth. …

רש”י על בראשית פרק א פסוק א
בראשית ברא – בשביל התורה שנקראת (משלי ח) ראשית דרכו ובשביל ישראל
שנקראו (ירמי’ ב) ראשית תבואתו
On the first two words of the Torah בראשית ברא (“In the beginning of
Hashem’s creating”), Rashi explains, “For the Torah and for the Jewish nation.”
Hashem’s purpose for creation is that the Jewish people should model
Hashem’s Kingdom for the world to see and learn from. Through learning Torah
and performing the mitzvot- the holy way of life that He prescribes for his people-
the Jewish people would be Hashem’s ambassadors to the world. When the
gentiles would follow our example and keep their seven laws, the world would
reach its perfection, and everyone would reap their just reward in the World to
Come. As Hashem’s nation, the Jewish people fulfilling the Torah must continue to
exist; for if the Jewish people ceased to exist, the world would lose its purpose,
and it would have to perish.
Yitzchak told Esav that he must be subservient to Yaakov because Yaakov is
the purpose for creation. Esav had to accept this. Yet there is one situation under
which Esav can cast the yolk of Yaakov’s superiority from his neck and give him as
much trouble as he wishes.
When is that?
“Yet it shall be that when you are aggrieved, you may cast off his yoke from upon
your neck.”
What would Yaakov have to do to aggrieve Esav that would allow Esav “to
cast off the Yolk of Yaakov” and reign over him? Rashi explains.

והיה כאשר תריד – לשון צער כמו (תהלים נה) אריד בשיחי כלומר כשיעברו ישראל
על התורה


ויהיה לך פתחון פה להצטער על הברכות שנטל ופרקת עלו וגו’:
This means to say, when the Jewish people will transgress the Torah’s laws, and
you [Esav] will have a valid reason to feel aggrieved about the blessings that
Yaakov stole, then you will be able to cast his yolk from you.
Yaakov’s entitlement to the blessings was because he is the purpose of the
world, to be Hashem’s ambassador to the world. Acknowledging that, Esav is
prepared to take a back seat to him. When, however, Yaakov abandons his
position and adopts Esav’s ways, ceasing to be Hashem’s ambassadors, Esav says,
“You are no different than I am; You are no more entitled to Yitzchak’s blessing
than am I.” Did you ever notice how the world acts like everything that we have
earned through our hard work was taken from them- that we stole from them
what is rightfully theirs? This deep-rooted feeling is what surfaces when Esav feels
aggrieved about Yaakov having stolen the blessings. “Those blessings belong to
Yitzchak’s plan vis-à-vis his two sons had a deeper level. Esav would still be
there to help Yaakov, but in a different way. Whenever Yaakov’s existence would
become endangered because he has assimilated into the nations around him, Esav
himself, and the very nations into which they wish to meld, would quickly reject
them and throw them out as “dirty Jews!” Esav thus became the stick that Hashem
uses to keep Yaakov’s identity as Yaakov and prevent him from disappearing via
The Malbim in his commentary on the words “and your brother you shall serve”

מלבים על בראשית פרק כז פסוק לט
(מ) ואת אחיך תעבד. וזה יהיה לך לאושר הנפש, וזה תלוי בתנאי, אם יעקב יעסוק בתורה
ויעבוד את ה’ שאז תכנע לפניו, אבל בזמן שירפו ידיו מעבודת ה’ אז תהיה אתה המקל
והרצועה לרדות וליסר אותו, וז”ש והיה כאשר תריד, עת שאתה תרדה בו ע”י שלא יעבוד
את ה’, אז ופרקת עלו, כמ”ש בזמן שאין הקול קול יעקב אז הידים ידי עשו
And your brother you will serve: And this will be a tremendous source of
satisfaction to you (Esav). However, it is conditional. If Yaakov learns the Torah and
serves Hashem, then you will be subservient to him. But when he weakens in his
service to Hashem, you will be the stick and staff to punish him. As it states, והיה
כאשר תריד “And it will be when you beat him,” When you will punish him when he


is not serving Hashem anymore, then you will cast off his yolk, as it states in the

מדרש רבה איכה – הקדמה פסקה ב
הקול קול יעקב והידים ידי עשו כל זמן שקולו של יעקב בבתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות אין
הידים ידי עשו וכל זמן שאין קולו מצפצף בבתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות והידים ידי עשו
Whenever the voice of Yaakov is heard in the study halls and shuls, Esav’s
hands are ineffective, but when there is no voice of Yaakov in the study halls and
shuls, then Esav’s hands take over.
The Malbim continues:
וכן היה באמת שכ”ז שעבדו ישראל את ה’ היה אדום למס עובד כמו שהיה בימי דוד
ושלמה ומלכי
ישראל הצדיקים, ועת חטאו ישראל כתיב בימיו פשע אדום וגו’ וימליכו עליהם מלך (מ”ב
And so it has been. As long as the Jewish people served Hashem faithfully, Edom
(Esav) was a servant to them. This is how it was in the days of King David and King
Solomon and all the righteous kings of Israel. But when the Jewish people sinned,
Edom chose a king to rule over them.
The first place we see this principal at work is with the Jews in Egypt.
Because of Joseph who saved the country from certain disaster, the Jewish
people were beloved by the Egyptians. We then read how suddenly the Jews
became despicable to the Egyptian people (Exodus 1:7).

(ז) וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל פָּרוּ וַיִּשְׁרְצוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ וַיַּעַצְמוּ בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ אֹתָם
7) The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed, increased and became strong – very
very much so; and the land became filled with them.

(יב) וְכַאֲשֶׁר יְעַנּוּ אֹתוֹ כֵּן יִרְבֶּה וְכֵן יִפְרֹץ וַיָּקֻצוּ מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
12) But as much as they would afflict it (the nation), so it would increase and so it
would spread out; and they became disgusted because of the Children of Israel.
What suddenly happened? What caused the change of heart? King David
revealed the secret in Psalm 105:25.

(כה) הָפַךְ לִבָּם לִשְׂנֹא עַמּוֹ לְהִתְנַכֵּל בַּעֲבָדָיו:


25) He (Hashem) turned their hearts to hate his nation, to plot against His servants.
King David is telling us that it was Hashem Himself Who caused all the trouble.
The Jews suffered terribly at the hands of the Egyptians. We know about
Pharoah’s attempting to kill all the baby boys at birth, but that was just the
Pharoah, our Sages tell us, had leprosy, the cure for which was thought to be
bathing in human blood. Pharoah had Jewish babies slaughtered by the thousands
so that he could use their fresh blood to bathe in. They would then take babies
and use them as bricks in their buildings.
Hashem is the One who made the previously grateful Egyptians have a
change of heart towards the Jewish people . Why would He do that?
The Midrash informs us that at that point many Jews had stopped
performing ritual circumcision. They did not want to look different than their
Egyptian hosts; they wanted to blend in with them. Similarly, it says, and the land
became filled with them.
When the Jewish people came down to Egypt, Yosef was careful to have
them live in a separate place, Goshen. This was necessary so that the Jews would
maintain their Jewish lifestyle and values. But now they started moving out of
Goshen and living among the Egyptians across the land – and the land became
filled with them. Once again, they wanted to assimilate with their hosts and blend
Hashem said, “I have a very simple solution to this problem. I am going to put
hatred in the Egyptian’s hearts and turn them against the Jews. This will prevent
them from assimilating.” When the Egyptians won’t accept them, they can’t blend
This was Hashem’s solution to assimilation in Egypt, and this explains the
antisemitism that we experience from the descendants of Esav (Edom – the fourth
exile in the hands of the Christian world), who hate us because Yaakov stole Esav’s
blessing. But why does the rest of the world hate us as well?
The Talmud (Sabbath 89a) says:
דרב חסדא ורבה בריה דרב הונא דאמרי תרווייהו מאי הר סיני הר שירדה שנאה לעכו”ם


Rav Chisda and Rabba the son of Rav Huna said. “Why is [Mt. Sinai] called סיני –
Mount Sinai, Because when the Torah was given to the Jewish people, שנאה (sin-
ah) hatred towards the Jews was given to the nations of the world.” (It is a play on
words. Sinah and Sinai sound similar.)
Now that the Jewish nation had officially and publicly accepted the Torah at
the foot of Mt. Sinai, they are bound to keep its laws. Just as with Esav, when we
keep the Torah and perform our duty in the world as Hashem’s ambassadors, the
gentiles do not threaten us. On the contrary, they have the utmost respect for us
as Hashem’s People. But when we abandon the Torah and act like the gentiles
surrounding us, Hashem invokes His simple but effective solution. He changes their
hearts to hate us so that we do not join them and lose our Jewish identity
This is what Bilaam said about the Jewish people when he looked out at them to
curse them (Numbers 23:9).

הֶן עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב
9) They are a nation who dwell alone and do not mix with the other nations.
These people have their own religion and their own destiny and do not mix
with any other nation for fear of ruining it.
A study of Jewish history bears this out. Antisemitism was always been
proportional to assimilation. If not for antisemitism, the Jewish nation would have
long vanished from the face of the earth. The logic is clear; this is Hashem’s built-
in solution to assimilation.
Now that we know the true source of antisemitism going all the way back to
Yaakov and Esav, we have the tools to combat it from its source. The antidote is to
embrace Judaism more and more. Anybody who attends Partners in Torah or any
of its functions is already powerfully combatting antisemitism. Learning Torah and
doing mitzvot makes us more Jewish. The more Jewish we are, the less they will
hate us. Counterintuitive, but logical. How about it?

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