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Parashat Toldot: A Way out of Violence

And this is the lineage of Isaac, son of Abraham; Abraham fathered Isaac.

(Genesis 25:19)

Thus begins Parashat Toldot, which will delve into the life of our patriarch Isaac and lead us into the narrative of the stories about Jacob, to whom we owe the name as a people. Parashat Toldot includes a series of stories depicting complex relationships between parents and children. These narratives raise questions about parenting models, sometimes inappropriate, as they do not consider the diverse needs of children, forcing them to wear disguises and engage in acts contrary to loyalty and truth.

The intricate and familiar story unfolding before us is that of a favored son, Jacob, manipulated by his mother, Rebecca, who is determined to see God's promise fulfilled. She wants Jacob to acquire Esau's birthright. However, for this to happen, her favorite son needs to receive the invaluable and almost magical blessing from his father.

When Esau arrives at his father's deathbed, bringing his favorite dish, Isaac, already suspicious of Jacob's voice when he pretended to be his brother, realizes the deception, but it's too late. In this dramatic moment of the story, Esau expresses his immense anger and despair, unable to comprehend why his father denies him his blessing. He let out a loud and bitter cry, as written in Genesis 27:34: "And he cried a great and bitter cry."

The need to scream in despair and rage in the face of suffering, injustice, hatred toward Israel, contempt for life, and antisemitism with its various disguises inundate us. Therefore, in the face of the silence of many who should have raised their voices from the first minute of these last 40 days, I pause at Esau's reaction.

The first appearance of the verb צעק, meaning to scream, cry out, or protest, is in the dramatic story of Cain and Abel, after Cain's fratricide against Abel. God addresses Cain, rebuking him: 'The bloods of your brother cry out to Me from the ground,' קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ צֹעֲקִים אֵלַי מִן הָאֲדָמָה (Genesis 4:10). How can blood cry out from the ground? The metaphor is striking, representing us today when the blood of our brothers floods and cries out from the earth.

Esau cries out because he is experiencing an identity theft; he is symbolically murdered by his own brother. His outcry is a sign of the tremendous pain that continues the cycle of violence that began with the story of the first biblical brothers.

We know from the text that Rebecca suffered during her pregnancy with twins. The fact that their destiny and even their character are predetermined from the womb has conditioned the lives of these twins to the point of leaving them no space to live in a more harmonious reality.

The repetition of stories of dysfunctional brothers in the Torah poses an existential question for the inhabitants of Medinat Israel (the State of Israel), as well as for the Palestinians in Gaza and the territories. How do we find a way out of violence and revenge? How do we regain our voice, broaden our perspective to be responsible for our own history and also care about and address the suffering of others?

At this very moment, it is clear that defending our brothers in Medinat Israel by the IDF is an unavoidable and priority mandate. At this very moment, we are facing a new unpredictable wave of antisemitism worldwide. At this very moment, we witness a more complex and extremely painful reality, listening to voices of intolerable support for anti-Zionist populism expressed by members of some Jewish circles worldwide.

This is a moment when, inspired by the progressive voice of our prophetic literature, we must scream like Esau and, as we imagine the first cry in the Torah, that of the earth, to be heard and make ourselves heard wherever incitement to the destruction of the State of Israel, the Jewish people, hate speech, violence, and the delegitimization of the actions of the IDF prevail.

This is a moment when shouting and resistance are a matter of survival.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gustavo Geier


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