Parashat Toldot

Two Minutes of Torah with Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky

And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished’—which is why he was named Edom. Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’

—Genesis 25:30-31

“We’re going to Bubby’s house for Thanksgiving!!!!!”

—My 4-year-old

As you are reading this, I am at my parents’ house in New Jersey. It’s good to be home for the holidays.

I love Thanksgiving and all that comes with it. Families gathering from all over, the travel plans, the food, total participation in this very American holiday. I also deeply appreciate it from a Jewish perspective. The concept of setting a day in the calendar to give thanks for the harvest is rooted in the harvest holiday cycle of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. We recite Hallel on those days, a liturgy full of psalms expressing our gratitude to God. Jews know how to give thanks.

Thanksgiving, like all holidays involving family gatherings, also has its own complexities and challenges. I love my large, extended family and all its chaotic energy. There will be around 30 people at our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night ranging in age from 18 months to nearly 80 years. Drama? Of course. Does it stop us from gathering? Not a chance.

This week, in Parashat Toldot, we read about Jacob and Esau, Isaac’s twin sons who competed for their parents’ love and attention. Jacob tricks Esau into selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentils. The family drama reaches its climax when Jacob deceives Isaac and gets the blessing meant for Esau, as well. Jacob now has the blessing and the birthright and Esau is left with apologies and anger. The brothers will reconcile eventually, but it will take many years until they can be together in the same space. Imagine THAT Thanksgiving dinner.

This year, when we gather with our families and friends, , let us give thanks for our relationships and their power to endure through arguments, miscommunication, and drama. Give thanks for being in a place where people love you, chaos and all. Give thanks for the homes and families we can return to and the homes and families we create for ourselves. Happy Thanksgiving.