Shabbat Parashat Toldot Thanksgiving Then and Now

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join us for Friday night and Shabbat morning services as we celebrate the bar mitzvah of David Spigel. Mazal Tov to David and to the entire family!

This week’s Torah portion, Toldot, highlights the impact that a single special festive meal can have on a family and on the history of an entire people. Isaac, nearing the end of his life, asks his son, Esau, to bring home fresh game and to cook Isaac’s favorite meal for him so that he, Isaac, would be moved to share a most special blessing with his firstborn son, Esau.

The Biblical story gets complicated and the family dynamics are intricate. Rebecca, Isaac’s wife and mother of Esau and of Jacob, ends up preparing and cooking the meal. Jacob, pretending to be Esau, presents the festive meal to his father, Isaac. And, Jacob manages to convince Isaac to bless him with the blessing that Isaac had originally intended for Esau.

What I find fascinating about this Biblical story is that, just as Thanksgiving is approaching, we read a Torah portion in which a festive meal plays such a crucial role in the story of our ancestors’ lives.

This year our Thanksgiving celebrations may look very different than in previous years. Nevertheless, the heart of the festive meal, then and now, is the search for blessing in the context of family and of friends. And, this year, more than ever, we are definitely in need of an extra measure of blessing.

So, no matter how we may celebrate Thanksgiving, it is my hope and prayer that we will all focus on those things for which we can be genuinely thankful! Let us focus on moments of gratitude and lift them up. Let us bless those around us, whether in person or long-distance. Let us inhale the comforting scents of a freshly prepared festive meal, even as Isaac did in our Torah portion. And, let us allow that pleasing scent to infuse our hearts with an abundant sense of comfort and of blessing. What we learn from our Torah portion is that, if we open our hearts wide enough, we will find that there is enough blessing to go all around!

I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a very blessed Thanksgiving.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror