This week's Torah Portion: 

06 Tol’dot - History - Genesis 25:19-28:9

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  וְאֵלֶּה תֹּולְדֹת יִצְחָק בֶּן־אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם הֹולִיד אֶת־יִצְחָֽק

V'eyleh tol'dot Yitz'chak ben-Avraham avraham holid eht-yitzchak

"Here is the history of Yitz'chak, Avraham's son. Avraham fathered Yitz'chak."

“Eyleh tol’dot.... (Here is the history [generations] of....).” These opening few words dot the beginnings of just a handful of significant chapters in the Torah. To be sure, there are ten significant instances in the book of B’resheet alone that use the Hebrew word “tol’dot,” which stems from the root word used for birth, or offspring. We read about the history of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 2:4; the history of Adam in 5:1; 6:9 and 10:1 talks about the history of Noach. Up until this point, the selection might appear rather “random,” that is, without pursuing a single family lineage. But after Noach, the Torah specifically begins narrowing down its selection of historical perspectives, singling out the significant person that is most pertinent for the reader’s study.

After Noach’s listing in B’resheet 10:1, the Torah begins the pattern of tracing the lineage of a specific family history, highlighting the offspring of a specific man in particular. Notice the pattern: Shem’s history is the highlight of B’resheet 11:10; Terach’s history (Avram’s father) of 11:27; Yishma’el’s history (Avraham’s first son) of 25:12; and Yitz’chak’s history (Avraham’s son according to promise) of 25:19, which is of course the beginning of our current parashah entitled Tol’dot. Later on we will pick up the familiar pattern again with ‘Esav (Yitz’chak’s first son) and his offspring in 36: 1, 9; and finally the history of Ya’akov (the inheritor of the covenantal promises) in B’resheet 37:2. In this way, the Torah guides us into the place where we begin to have the understanding that HaShem wants us to have. This understanding is comprised of the “majors of the majors of Torah, and the minors of the minors” (see my previous commentary to Parashat Lekh L’kha, third paragraph, for reference).

Since the topic here is history, I want to take this opportunity to briefly recap the highlights of the Torah narrative up until this point. Moreover, since the Torah is comprised of the first five books of Moshe, this is an opportune moment to refresh the readers understanding of the first five parash’ot of the book of B’resheet. I will use small quotes from my previous commentaries as a guidance tool, bringing the readers up to the current portion of Tol’dot.
— Parashat Tol'dot