Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9) Esau as Caregiver? An Ancient Story and a Modern Challenge.

Carole Leskin Photo/Used by permission.
Carole Leskin Photo/Used by permission.

Last Sunday afternoon. I am sitting at my son’s house in between him and my nine-year-old grandson. We are watching football. There are memories of my dad taking me to games when I was a child and me doing the same when my son was a boy and now again with my grandson. These are our stories; this is Toldot!

This week’s portion continues the powerful narrative of Genesis and the family of Abraham. Isaac assumes a central position, at least for a while, and we meet the interesting verses regarding the birth of Jacob and Esau and the birthright (25:27-34).  We read of Isaac’s sojourns and his re-digging of Abraham’s wells. (26). Finally we meet the powerful story in 27 of the blessing and the challenge for love and loyalty and sibling issues, compounded by the manipulation of Rebekah. Again, enough drama for any family therapist.

I want to draw your attention to an issue that can be seen in between the lines, so to speak, in the portion. Isaac is presented as aging. He asks Esau to go and prepare his favorite meal (27:1-4), which sets in motion the blessing issue. Esau can be seen as a caregiver. His role is to bring his older and frailer dad food. In his “Self , Struggle and Change”, Dr. Norman Cohen sees in this passage a hint as to what so  many of us are, or have lived through. “Is this so different from our own families in which an aging parent is dependent upon one child…for his or her care and sustenance”? (p.99). Once again, Torah speaks to our issues.

As we study the portion this Shabbat, the U.S. Congress will continue to debate issues around family care support.  An AARP survey noted that 78% of caregivers report having out-of-pocket expenses as a result of caregiving with the average annual amount caregivers spend for this is over $7,000. (go to and search Out of Pocket Caregiving Costs) Many of you reading this know exactly what this issue entails, not only financially, but emotionally, spiritually and as it impacts your family system.  One hopes that there is no one, hanging around the fringes, trying to manipulate the debate and decisions!!!

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Richard F Address



About Rabbi Richard Address 709 Articles
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.

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