Parsha Toldot by Rabbi Julia Margolis
This week’s Torah portion is called Toldot, “Generations,” and it chronicles the history of our Patriarch Isaac and the generations that he and his wife Rebecca created through the birth of their twin sons Jacob and Esau.
We read about a dramatic and unsettling tale of family disharmony, a tragic story with Esau selling his birth-right to Jacob, who then turns around and steals the blessings that his blind father thought he was bestowing upon Esau on his deathbed.
We all have our personal chronicles of our own family, perhaps because I am an only child, sometimes its easier for me to see many families from a certain perspective, and to see how they are caught up in their internal fights, there is often no affection, and togetherness. They are perhaps too busy to appreciate that every day is a privilege to spend with your loved once. In our days we are caught up in modern technology and we spend so much of our time on different networks, or group chats that we start to forget the basis of our own “chronicles”. We can so easily get drawn into arguments and foolish disagreements over nothing really. That many times one should caution oneself to Stop, to simply take a step back – and take a moment to appreciate what is surrounding you. We need ultimately to study how to recognize the blessings that we are in each other’s lives.
We need to be grateful for each moment, unfortunately many times such gratitude is often too late. We should complain less in order to teach our next generation that complaints rarely bring anything good, in most cases we find ourselves on the receiving end of the opposite. We are all very busy in our work, homes and lives – I know how difficult it is my self. I am both a mother and a rabbi. Some days I’m more a mother and some days I’m more a rabbi. One somehow does one’s best to make it all work, I just know in my heart that it all feels right, and when the going gets tough I just keep putting one foot in front of the other – and I know I will get there in the end.
The experience of coupling motherhood with a career is something women fought for in the last century. The opening of the doors to women in the rabbinate was very much a result of the Women’s Liberation Movement. And Judaism is no doubt all the better for it.
I am trying to follow in the steps of my role models: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, Regina Jonas – the first female Rabbi, who was ordained in Germany in 1935 and murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. And another role-model, my own mother- Rabbi Rubinstein who today serves her congregation also far away from Israel.
We must always seek truth in our world, and not be afraid to live according to those truths. And we must not be afraid to speak up when those truths are questioned. We must know that we have received a gift from our ancestors, and passed this down through the generations of mothers following them.
This Shabbat Toldot lets us think about our blessings, encourages us to focus on building our internal gratitude, and to thank God out loud for all these blessings. Perhaps if Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Rebecca had done the same, then the entire course of Jewish history would have changed for the better. But we must hold close to our faith, to the lessons we can learn from it, and even closer must we hold to and appreciate the blessings our spiritual parent continues to bestow upon us “generation after generation” even if we are only aware of a few of the many, let us be truly grateful for them.