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Toledot and Thanksgiving


Parshat Toledot

Genesis 25:19-28:9

This week’s Torah portion is Toledot.  Toledot means generations.  It focuses on the life of Isaac and on the birth of his twin sons Esau and Jacob.  Interesting the Torah portion actually revolves around food! Perhaps that is one of the ironies this week as we celebrate our Thanksgiving feasts.

As the Parasha opens Isaac and Rebekkah like Abraham and Sarah a generation before face a lack of food and must go down to Egypt to survive. And then later in the Parsha, Isaac’s son Jacob cooks a pot of red lentil stew and his hungry hunting brother, Esau trades his inheritance to satiate his immediate hunger.  Esau doesn’t think through the consequences of his ravenous and gluttonous behavior.

There is family strife between the brothers and Jacob deceives his father by masquerading as his brother and receives the blessing and Esau’s plea “Have you no blessing for me father?”  This week’s portion tells of parental favoritism and jealousy and rage between brothers.

The themes of the portion couldn’t be more apropos for the Thanksgiving festivities. For many in our country they have no food to eat. Famine is there every day experience.  We gather to try to feed the hungry but the overwhelming poverty that our nation faces makes this a daunting task.

We feast on food during Thanksgiving and act out our family dramas around our holiday tables.  Families reunite and yet often there is an undercurrent of past hurts and past errors that were never confronted.  Family tensions are brought to the forefront during the holiday season even as people schlep across the miles to reunite!

Yes it sounds like this week’s Torah Portion.

So as you gather around your Thanksgiving table.  Here are some special prayers and readings that you might share together. Place this day in its proper context.  Ratchet down the drama and approach one another with gentleness.  Forgive past hurts and try to forge a foundation of hope and caring together.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Legend of the Five Kernels…
The first winter the Pilgrims spent in their new home was very cold.
Food was in short supply. Some days they had only enough food
for each new person to have five kernels of corn for the day.
Finally spring came. They planted food and it grew. All the Pilgrims did not die.
From then on, when a time of Thanksgiving came around,
the Pilgrims put five kernels of corn on each plate
to remind themselves of their blessings. Let us also remember:

The first kernel reminds us of the autumn beauty around us.
The second kernel reminds us of our love for each other.
The third kernel reminds us of God’s love and care for us.
The fourth kernel reminds us of our friends-especially our Native American
The fifth kernel reminds us that we are a free people.


“Our Creator shall continue to dwell above the sky, and that is where
those on earth will end their thanksgiving.”


thank you God for most this amazing day;
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is infinite which is yet.

ee  Cummings


“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”



Thanksgiving Day…. is the one day that is purely American.”

  O’Henry 1862-1910

“I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.”