“Then his brother emerged, holding on to the heel of Esau; so they name him Jacob…” (Genesis 25:26)
Parashat Toldot raises important questions about identity. Jacob, later to become Israel, is initially described as, “…a mild man who stayed in camp.” (Gen. 25:27) Later, the Torah describes how he colludes with his mother, lies to his father, and steals his twin brother Esau’s blessing. (Gen 27:5-29). What happens in between? How does Jacob the simple man become Jacob the schemer? Viewed from this perspective, Toldot offers a case study in identity creation.
One benefit of the annual Torah-reading cycle is we know, even at this stage of the story, that Jacob the schemer is not the last Jacob we will meet; Jacob the lover, worker, father, wrestler, and patriarch are yet to come. Toldot “sets us up” to recognize each event in Jacob’s life as a formative influence on his subsequent identity, anticipating developmental psychology by a few thousand years.
JCCs offer activities that help members create their Jewish identities by exploring what being Jewish means to them. JCCs recognize that just as Jacob keeps evolving in the Torah, each person continues to evolve throughout their life span. JCCs believe creating a Jewish identity is a unique and individual life-long process. This is why JCCs offer programming across the life span; we are as interested in helping seniors explore what being Jewish means to them as we are toddlers in our ECE programs. It’s impossible, though, to know in advance which activity, or event may be formative or the most significant in our life; we can only reflect upon what’s been the most significant SO FAR.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom