When I was in fourth grade my father asked me, “Chava what Torah portion are you learning?” “The story of the wells, in the chapter called Toldos.” In fifth grade, my father asked me, “Chava what Torah portion are you studying this year?” “Toldos, the one about Jacob and Aisav.”, I’d say. Sixth grade was pretty much the same, and so was seventh, eighth, ninth….
By the time I reached Tenth grade my father decided Toldos week was a monumental holiday and so it was that the week the Toldos Portion was read in Synagogue was a week we’d gather together. No matter what had taken place, divorce, remarriage, family dysfunction that consisted of long cold silent treatments, our family still managed to gather for Toldos. And on each year on Monday, my father would ask me, for old time sake- “Guess what parshah it is this week?”
I always wondered what made Toldos as much celebrated and coveted by us as Christmas morning is to Baptist children. Much like kids who eat ham once a year, we too count the days down and wait for our Toldos to arrive with glee and excitement. Although there were no presents or stocking stuffers we did talk about it for weeks before it arrived and my kids would sing “Zadee Ta is coming to town…” much like the Santa song. Toldos is usually before Thanksgiving and the giving season, so hot apple cider is in the air and allspice is on sale at the supermarket. When I think of Toldos, I think of turkey, stuffing and canned pumpkin pie. For years Toldos became our Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. Technically it wasn’t Hanukkah yet, so we didn’t need to stick to blue as the color scheme. It became our weekend to go crazy with American colors like orange, red and green.
I went back and read through the portion to cast a little insight on what lesson I can glean from Toldos.
My father’s Hebrew name was Michoel, like the angel. There are few places in the Torah that it mentions Michoel the angel. The first place is read in Parshat Vayeira in the book of Genesis. In this portion, which is read two weeks before Toldos, it is brought down that Michoel’s job was to tell Abraham and Sarah they would have a child despite their old age. Sarah laughed upon hearing this news and when she did give birth a year later, she named her son Isaac, which means laughter.
Michoel brought on laughter and was the bearer of good news.
The next time we hear about The Angel Michoel, is in Parshat Toldos. Isaac’s wife is pregnant with twins. The sages say the twins fought inside her womb, causing her much discomfort. It is brought down that the fighting took place between Aisav’s angel and Jacob’s angel- Michoel.
Michoel fought for the underdog and prevailed.
Toldos also talks about the wells that Isaac dug, and how he had to spend his whole life digging out the wells the Pelishtim clogged up. It was arduous work, and it felt never ending, and like some obstacles you can’t see the light at the end of it, but it was those wells that cared for the Jewish people when they returned to the land of Israel.
These wells that flowed with the vitality of life, the sustenance of energy and that were lined with the clean water that told the Jewish people upon entering their land, you shall persevere and live despite your wanderings and the hardships you have endured. These are the wells that are spoken about in this portion, Parshat Toldos.
This year we will gather again on Parshat Toldos for wine and Turkey on our Christmas paper plates and good family times. No one will be calling me on Monday to say “Guess what parsha it is this week?” But I am warmed with the thought that I have an angel in heaven who is fighting for me, who is laughing with me, and who sees my arduous spirit of grief at work making room for life, for my own vitality and for the promise that one day although this obstacle is high, there is light at the end of it, indeed.