Ariel Ben Avraham

Parshat Toldot: Love as the guide

This week’s portion starts telling us about “the generations (toldot) of Isaac, the son of Abraham” (25:19) and in this context “generations” refer to the life and times of our second Patriarch, the least mentioned in the Torah though essential and important as Abraham and Jacob

Isaac is distinguished as the Jewish Patriarch whose name was not changed by the Creator, and whose life is considered the perfect offering for Him. Isaac remained being that all his life. Indeed this is a special distinction we must honor and emulate as individuals and as a Nation who want to become the perfect offering of God’s ways and attributes.

And the children struggled within her, and she said, ‘If so, why am I this?’ And she went to inquire of the Lord.” (25:22). Like her husband, our matriarch Rebecca was fully aware that God’s love creates and sustains all, and everything depends on His will including the struggle that was taking place in her womb. “And the Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from your innards, and one kingdom will become mightier than the other kingdom, and the elder will serve the younger’.” (25:23). We must understand this statement not as an answer for her but as a prophecy and Commandment, not only for Rebecca but for the people of the Torah.

Our mystic Sages teach that these “two nations” are two forces that comprise the Universe, which are really one we can translate as light revealed and light not revealed, for all that exists was created as a unity emanated from God who is also One. In this context His Commandment in His words for Rebecca is clear: darkness’s destiny is to reveal the Light that it conceals (“the elder will serve the younger”). In a deeper meaning, the lower and negative aspects must serve the higher and positive levels of human consciousness, not the opposite.

It is interesting to note that the lower aspects of consciousness indeed act according to their own nature and to their own level, as the feet that walk and the hands that write. There is no judgment regarding their nature and function because all serve a purpose, hence it is the purpose what we must establish, direct and pursue.

Emotions, passions and instincts may disregard the purpose and mission delineated by the intellect and mind: “Esau replied, ‘Behold, I am going to die; so why do I need this birthright’?” “(…) and Esau despised the birthright.” (25:32, 34).


Esau’s purpose was focused on destructive materialistic desires and not altruistic or spiritual concerns, and selling his birthright was his way to confirm his choice. Our oral tradition say that he committed five transgressions on that day: he raped a betrothed maiden, murdered Nimrod the king of Babel, rejected the existence of God, denied the resurrection of the dead, and repudiated the birthright (which in those times also represented the priesthood). It also tells that God took Abraham’s life that day to spare him the shame of seeing that one of his descendants was a criminal.

Isaac’s journey continues: “And the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt, dwell in the land that I will tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you, and I will bless you, because to you and to your seed will I give all these lands, and all the nations of the Earth will bless themselves by your seed’ (…)” (26:2-4), “And Isaac sowed in that land, and he found in that year a hundred fold, and the Lord blessed him. And the man became great, and he grew constantly greater until he had grown very great.” (26:12-13).

What is so special about this Land that our Creator wants us to live in it? It is the land where He is with us, and we are blessed with His love that enables us to bless all the nations of the Earth. When we live in this land and follow love’s ways and attributes as the material manifestation of God’s love, we sow the same love that multiplies around us, making us grow more and more while we live in His Land, in His ways and attributes.

God’s love enables us to build a place for Him to dwell in this world: “And Isaac again dug the wells of water which they had dug in the days of his father, Abraham (…)” (26:18), “he named it Rehovot, and he said, ‘Because now the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land’.” (26:22), This is the endless expansion that God’s love gives us in His Creation when we become aware of His works and we live in His ways. As long as we keep this awareness we will live in the abundance that love is.


Once again the Torah reaffirms that God’s love does not cohabit with anything different than His ways and attributes in our consciousness, referred in this verse as the Canaanite women who Esau married: “And they were a vexation of the spirit to Isaac and to Rebecca.” (26:35).

“And he came closer, and he kissed him, and he smelled the fragrance of his garments, and he blessed him, and he said, ‘Behold, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field, which the Lord has blessed’.” (27:27). Here Isaac recognized the son who was truly entitled to the birthright (that he previously bought from Esau for a plate of lentils).


Sages explain that Isaac smelled the scent of the Garden of Eden when he approached Jacob, the scent of Love manifested in the material world through him. “Nations shall serve you and kingdoms shall bow down to you; you shall be a master over your brothers, and your mother’s sons shall bow down to you. Those who curse you shall be cursed, and those who bless you shall be blessed.” (27:29).

These are the blessings of love because love conquers and subdues the potential negative aspects and lower traits of consciousness that live in the suffering of pain, and waiting to be redeemed by love: “And you shall live by your sword, and you shall serve your brother; and it will be, when you grieve, that you will break his yoke off your neck.” (27:40). We have to pay close attention to this verse because when we don’t love and not follow love’s ways and attributes, negativity “grieves” and fights against us.

Isaac’s words for Esau are the warning for Jacob and his descendants: When we do not direct every aspect of our consciousness with Love as the yoke of our lower nature (Esau), that yoke will be broken and the reverse process takes place: when we do not allow Love as the guide of our consciousness, we allow negativity to take over by letting ego’s illusions and fantasies rule our life.

The portion ends with a final blessing that commands us to be together as a united Nation, because God’s love will always keep us united in His ways and attributes: “And may the almighty God bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and you shall become an assembly of peoples.” (28:3).

We can achieve unity if we maintain the awareness of our permanent connection with God as the Levites do, as it is reminded by the Prophet in the haftarah for this portion: “True teaching was in his [Levi’s] mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. In peace and fairness he went with Me, and he brought back many from iniquity. Because a priest’s lips shall guard knowledge and teaching should be from his mouth, because he is a messenger of the Lord of Hosts.” (Malachi 2:6-7).

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.