You are currently viewing Torah Tuesdays with Hennie Black- Parshat Toldot

Torah Tuesdays with Hennie Black- Parshat Toldot




In this week’s Torah portion of Toldot, we are introduced to Yaakov and Eisav, the twins born to our patriarch and matriach, Yitzchak and Rivka. The Torah doesn’t tell us much about their upbringing—at least from the time of their birth until their teenage years—at which point, two very different personalities emerge. 

Eisav was known as a hunter, a cunning man of the field.  He was a base and materialistic person. Yaakov was known as “tamim” (wholesome) and an honest man who “dwelt in tents,” a reference to his studying Torah.

As Eisav and Yaakov grew into adulthood, their father Yitzchak got old and blind: as the verse says, his “eyes were dimmed from seeing,” which we learn just prior to Yitzchak’s expressing his wish to bless Eisav, his firstborn. 

The commentaries have many different interpretations as to why the Torah tells us that Yitzchak’s eyes were dimmed. Was he actually blind, or was the Torah, perhaps, speaking metaphorically?

One answer given by Rashi is that Yitzchak was blinded by the smoke created by the idolatry of Eisav’s wives. This is both a physical blinding and metaphorically alludes to Yitzchak’s having turned a blind eye to the negative actions of his son Eisav, allowing the idolatry to take place in his very own home.

On the matter of Yitzchak’s parenting, some commentaries accuse Yitzchak of being unaware of who his son Eisav really was, while others write that Yitzchak understood his son so well, he made the choice to give Eisav a blessing, fully cognizant of what he was doing,

The Midrash explains that Yitzchak recognized the inherent potential in his son Eisav to do great things, and that is why he turned a blind eye to Eisav’s behaviour. Yitzchak wanted to keep Eisav close to the family and felt that this was the best way to do so. He put in action the proverb in Mishlei, “Educate a child according to his way.” There is no one size fits all when it comes to raising our children.

Yitzchak was not oblivious to the true nature of Eisav. He was well aware of Eisav’s negative character traits. In spite of this, Yitzchak used Eisav’s interests to channel his strengths with the goal of maintaining a relationship with him.  

It was specifically because Eisav was who he was, that Yitzchak felt a greater need to bless him. Yitzchak believed, according to many commentaries, that Eisav might change for the better; that he might mend his ways after receiving the blessing, which Yitzchak hoped would convey his trust in Eisav to live up to his expectations.

The Torah explains that Yitzchak loved Eisav because “game was in his mouth.” Did Yitzchak—a pure and righteous man—really love Eisav because he enjoyed hunting in the fields? In spite of Eisav’s choices, Yitzchak was determined to connect with his son, and sharing his interest in hunting was Yitzchak’s way of reaching him.

Yitzchak exemplified the concept of loving unconditionally. Yitzchak loved Eisav in spite of his not becoming the man that he envisioned. He may have turned a “blind eye,” yet he knew exactly what was happening in his son Eisav’s life.

A profound lesson in parenting is highlighted through this narrative, but is it one that is prescriptive? Should we follow the example of Yitzchak and love our children unconditionally, regardless of their behaviour? Or should we set limits and strict boundaries and hold them accountable?

In reality, most parents navigate a fine balance between the two positions- sometimes employing unconditional love; sometimes employing strict boundaries. That is why the proverb “educate your child according to his way” is so apt. It allows parents to determine what is right for their child, as each child will need something different, and each child will need a different approach at different times throughout their life.

For those wishing to join Hennie's Torah Tuesday classes online, please contact Hennie Black at