Parashat Toldot portrays a family in distress and a reminder about how families who do not communicate with each other will face a severing of relationships that oftentimes can never be healed. Just think about the dynamics of this week’s Torah portion. It leads us to more questions than answers, but, the narrative allows us to ask whether there was a real communication problem between Isaac and Rebecca as well as with their twin sons. Did Rebecca tell her husband Isaac about the oracle she received before the twins, Esau and Jacob, were born, where God told her that the “elder will serve the younger?” Why didn’t Rebecca share her plan to dress Jacob in Esau’s clothes, which led him to receive the Patriarchal Blessing? Why couldn’t Isaac have at least informed his wife of his intention to bring the blessing to Esau instead of Jacob? If they had talked about it, maybe they could have come up with another solution, where Jacob would still have received the blessing, but not at the price of alienating his older brother. Why did Jacob follow his mother’s advice to create this ruse in the first place as he dressed in Esau’s clothing?
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Z”L explained in his book; “Lessons in Leadership” that Toldot is an example of poor communication and missed opportunities between family members:
“Communication matters. In the beginning God created the natural world with words: “And God said: ‘Let there be….” We create the social world with words. The Targum (Aramaic translation of the Torah) translates the phrase “And man became a living soul,”(Genesis 2:7) into “And man became a speaking soul.” “For us, speech is life. Life is relationship. And human relationships only exist because we can speak. We can tell other people our hopes, our fears, our feelings and thoughts.”
Typically, speaking is not usually the problem. The issue is what people say to one another, and whether their words are constructive or destructive. Nowadays therapists often teach us to return to silence or to the inner self. Yet, when we live in silence and when we retreat to the point of becoming isolated from those we interact with– especially if it’s a family member– then have we not abdicated something sacred inside ourselves?