Parshat Toldot is the heart of the book of Breisheet (Genesis). As a book that is about family stories, it is not shy about portraying disturbing issues that are common to so many of us. In this parsha we read about the pain that infertility brings and also the relief that comes to some when they are finally able to bear children. We experience the confusing effects of parental favoritism upon offspring and we see what occurs when an important secret is not divulged to a spouse.
Toldot is also the story of Eisav and Yaakov, twins born to Rivka and Yitzhak. Eisav, born first, is red and hairy while Yaakov is smooth and a home body. The story of how the birthright and blessings is transferred from Eisav to Yaakov is filled with secrets, drama and treachery. Children are manipulated by parents and the story ends with Yaakov fleeing to his mother's family to escape the ire of his twin. Although the actual text paints Eisav in a sympathetic manner, Rashi and other commentators paint him as a blood loving, war making scoundrel. Because we know in advance that Eisav is the progenitor of some of Israel's worst enemies, a very unflattering picture is painted of him on the margins of the page. This poem is written with that understanding, as well as an understanding that there are many commentators, and not all paint Eisav with such cruel tendencies.
A question I ask myself. What if the commentators had written a different interpretation of Eisav? A more sympathetic one? Would history have changed?
Run, Brother, Run is an imagined letter written by Eisav to his twin brother, Yaakov.
Please see below for some of the podcasts that I listened to in order to study this parsha.
I'll also refer you to a few other poems that I have written on this memorable parsha.
Run, Brother, Run
Run, brother, run.
You had me by the heel;
always one step behind.
My yin to your yang.
Run, brother, run.
Two sides of the same coin,
both of equal value;
but one is always the head
and one is always the tail.
From the time we were the size of tadpoles
our roles were determined.
Quills scratching wildly on parchment,
setting up a story,
envisioning the future.
Words behind words.
The quiet student
and the red man;
the good and the bad.
Checkmate is declared
before the game begins.
No matter what I did
it was wrong in someone’s eyes.
And with each stroke of the pen
the more of a villain I became.
Looking for what was mine,
or so I thought,
I became the villain before the ink was even dry.
This book is ours.
So, run, brother, run.
The ink is dry upon the page.
Blank ink, white spaces,
by forces stronger than us.
Stronger even than the bond of brothers.
and I will forgive you.
You may run far,
but far is never far enough.
You will pay the price,
A price we continue to pay.
We cannot run away from who we are cast to be.
The opinion piece is already written;
edited and posted.
It’s too late for us to right it
So we fall into our prescribed roles
You gather your books
And I will
cloak myself in red.
History is watching.
Yin and Yang Symbol taken from Wikepedia website
וַיִּתְרֹֽצְצ֤וּ הַבָּנִים֙ בְּקִרְבָּ֔הּ וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אִם־כֵּ֔ן לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה אָנֹ֑כִי וַתֵּ֖לֶךְ לִדְרֹ֥שׁ אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה׃
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה לָ֗הּ שְׁנֵ֤י (גיים) [גוֹיִם֙] בְּבִטְנֵ֔ךְ וּשְׁנֵ֣י לְאֻמִּ֔ים מִמֵּעַ֖יִךְ יִפָּרֵ֑דוּ וּלְאֹם֙ מִלְאֹ֣ם יֶֽאֱמָ֔ץ וְרַ֖ב יַעֲבֹ֥ד צָעִֽיר׃
But the children struggled in her womb, and she said, “If so, why do I exist?”*why do I exist? Meaning of Heb. uncertain. She went to inquire of יהוה,
and יהוה answered her, “Two nations are in your womb, Two separate peoples shall issue from your body; One people shall be mightier than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”
When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb.
The first one emerged red, like a hairy mantle all over; so they named him Esau.*Esau Synonym of “Seir,” play on Heb. se‘ar “hair.”
Then his brother emerged, holding on to the heel of Esau; so they named him Jacob.*Jacob Play on Heb. ‘aqeb “heel.” Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.
Podcasts on Parshat Toldot
Links to other poems on Parshat Toldot
https://www.wordshavewings.net/post/we-are-family * (my favorite!)