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Parashat Toldot

My favourite Israeli writer, Etgar Keret has this to say on the relationship between asthma and love;

“When someone, while having an asthma attack, says "I love you" or "I really love you", there's a difference. A word difference. And a word is a lot, because that word could have been "sit", "Ventolin" or even "ambulance". ”

This week's parasha explores love in a multifaceted way, marital love, of a father for his child, love that forces a woman to choose between her husband and her son, the same love that forces her to send the child far away.

In one verse, the Torah summarises the powerful love that is held and deeply felt in the household of Yitzchak, Rivkah, Ya'akov and Esav.

"And Yitzchak loved Esav, for the game he put in his mouth, but Rivkah loves Yaakov."

Yitzchak loved Esav, past tense and Rivkah loves Yaakov present tense, why the difference?

My friends, buckle up and make like a teenage girl texting her crush, we're reading into things;

The Dubno Maggid suggests that the discrepancy in the text refers to two different forms of love. The first is the love for a person's tangible achievements, what have they accomplished that makes them worthy of our love. When we meet someone we ask "what do you do?", or if you're a toddler like me we ask "what are you studying? oh, and are you enjoying that?" (I nod enthusiastically while a small internal voice squeaks SOS!). After asking that fatal question we continue to develop a relationship with someone based on what they can achieve, and once they stop providing worth in our life, we cull them. Yitzchak "loved" Esav in that the bond always relied on something that Esav provided to his father or accomplished in the past (whether it be game he bought his father or his athletic prowess that induced sports day nachas).

Rivkah, on the other hand, loves Yaakov, not for what he has done but for who he is, a love that continues uninterrupted, unperturbed by failures or successes.

I'm only slightly lying to you, the Dubno Maggid is suggesting that it is the difference between Esav and Yaakov's personalities that earns them their respective form of parental love. However, I don't know if it is likely nowadays that we meet either an Esav or a Yaakov. It is more likely we meet a mixture, someone who is trying to work on their long-term self, but who gets caught up in the short term, the accomplishment of the day. So it depends on us, what do we see in the people we love. Do we see them as a walking list of the things they have done, and what worth they can provide to our lives. Or do we appreciate them for their essence, and love them unconditionally, regardless of success.

Shabbat Shalom


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