The parshah for November twenty sixth is Toldot, Genesis 25:19-28:9. In it, we have now the struggles of Isaac and Rebecca to conceive, the relations between Abimelech and Isaac’s household, the delivery of Esau and Jacob, and the lack of Esau’s birthright and his father’s blessing. As we are going to see, this can be a difficult portion from a feminist perspective due to Rebecca, but, from an ecofeminist perspective, I discover the best way wherein the portion discusses the interconnection between the water, the land, and divinity useful.
Let me start with the water after which we are going to take a look at Rebecca. Toldot takes place in and across the metropolis of Gerar in Philistine territory, whereas Abimelech dominated. Isaac and his household journey by the land fairly a bit between verses 26:16 and 26:32. Most of this part pertains to them shifting after which digging new wells, the protecting of wells, and the discovering of water. What I discover notably fascinating right here is the best way wherein water and peace appear to go collectively. For instance, in 26:20-21, Isaac and his household have constructed a properly however it’s inflicting them to have troubles with the locals. Isaac seeks peace and thus leaves. In verse 26:26, Isaac is visited by Abimelech and ultimately a proper peace is said. That is adopted in 26:32 by Isaac’s servants discovering water in a freshly dug properly. In different phrases, Isaac is keen to uproot his household repeatedly to domesticate peace; he isn’t keen to go to conflict over what within the desert actually is a fairly restricted useful resource.
As well as, I very very like how water is revered within the parshah. In verse 26:19, the water they discover known as residing waters. To me, this signifies the acknowledgment of simply how vital water is to life and the valuing of that useful resource. As well as, there’s a manner wherein Isaac trusts the land to supply. It’s, in actual fact, solely after the land offers water that Isaac understands the deity to have blessed him (26:22). See divinity by the land and water is a very superb side of Toldot.
Allow us to transfer on now to Rebecca. Toldot begins with a forty-year-old Isaac having simply married her. They haven’t simply conceived, so Isaac prays to the deity for assist. The deity harkens to his prayer, and shortly Rebecca is pregnant. Nevertheless, this isn’t a straightforward being pregnant; the fetuses are preventing within the womb. Now, it’s Rebecca’s flip to hunt out the deity. She inquires as to why that is taking place to her. The deity talks on to her explaining that she is carrying what is going to change into two nations who don’t at all times get alongside.
I wish to spotlight right here how distinctive this case is. It is likely one of the few occasions within the Torah wherein the deity’s phrases to a lady are remembered. Rebecca’s being pregnant is given divine help right here and this begs the query whether or not her later actions inside Toldot are additionally divinely supported. On the identical time, we have now a lady right here in a really stereotypical position as a mom. Is that this the value of a lady within the Torah? It actually makes one marvel. Extra on that later.
Quickly, Esau is born, adopted by Jacob greedy at Esau’s heel. These twins are as totally different as twins may be, each in look and in character. Esau is bushy and loves looking and the outside, whereas Jacob is harmless and a lover of being inside. There are two vital steps that occur subsequent. First, Jacob, of his personal accord, steals Esau’s birthright after which, with the large assist of Rebecca, deceives Isaac to be given the blessings meant for his brother.
What does Rebecca do? First she overhears Isaac’s plan to provide Esau his blessing after which acts shortly to verify her favourite son, Jacob, favors receives the blessing as an alternative. She tells Jacob to kill two children from their flocks and simply as Isaac is anticipating to make scrumptious meals from them. As a result of Esau is extraordinarily bushy, Rebecca and Jacob tie the skins of the children onto Jacob’s arms and his neck, in order that the nearly-blind Isaac believes him to be Esau. Though questioning his listening to all through the deception as Jacob nonetheless feels like Jacob, the meals and the bushy physique is sufficient to persuade Isaac that Jacob is definitely Esau. Isaac’s blessing of Jacob signifies that the divine blessing handed to him from Abraham turns into the legacy of Jacob and never Esau. That is tremendously vital as it’s the kids of Jacob, afterall, who go into Egypt. Their therapy there results in the Exodus story and the giving of the Torah.
From a feminist perspective, then, right here is the difficult half. On the one hand, on this parshah, it’s superb that as a lady, Rebecca speaks on to the deity and that her actions function predominately in Toldot. She is an energetic, unbiased agent, whose habits contradicts the person in her life. This habits, Rebecca’s scheming, is crucial for the delivery of the Jewish individuals as it’s her favourite son’s household who ultimately settle in Egypt, are liberated by the deity, obtain the Torah, and enter into the covenant. It’s fully believable that, on the time of Toldot, a lady’s solely actual energy on this world of males was their work behind the scenes for what they desired. On the identical time, it have to be stated that her actions are usually not essentially praise-worthy, are they? She clearly favors one son and is keen to deceive her personal husband. I’m additionally not an enormous fan of the truth that Rebecca’s solely position in Toldot is a mom and a deviant, scheming one at that. Nevertheless, one can’t deny the truth that, by her personal company, she turns into the mom of the Jewish individuals.
In the long run, Rebecca’s actions are important to the Jewish story, but, in Toldot, she has a stereotypical position and accomplishes her needs by deceit. But, we’d be mistaken to disclaim her her legacy as our mom. On the identical time, Isaac strives for peace, and this peace-making relies on an understanding of the interconnection between land, water, and divinity; we sorely want in our trendy world each an emphasis on peace-making and a revaluing of the interconnection between the land, water and holiness. From a(n eco-) feminist perspective, Toldot is a blended bag.
Ivy Helman, Ph.D.: A feminist scholar and school member at Charles College in Prague, Czech Republic the place she teaches a wide range of Jewish Research, Feminist and Ecofeminist programs.
Classes: Ecofeminism, Jewish Feminism, Judaism, Motherhood, Torah