My only daughter, Rashi, became engaged
today to an extraordinary gentle man (as in gentle).
My daughter’s engagement has allowed me to appreciate, perhaps
for the first time, the opening word and name of this week’s Torah portion:
The Hebrew word “Toldos”
is usually translated as generations, chronicles, descendants, children, offspring
or progeny. That’s the Thesaurus or Google version. But, as is usually the
case with Hebrew words, Toldos means much, much more. Toldos also
includes results, outcomes and consequences
But above all Toldos
means fruit, or perhaps more accurately: birthings. The root of Toldos
(or tuldah in the singular) is “leidah,” birthing. Tuldah
is the result, the outcome of a birthing. If leidah is the act of
birthing, tuldah is its fruit.
The sages have a beautiful
expression: “Toldoseihen shel tzaddikim – massim tovim.” The fruit
(children) of righteous people are their good deeds.
Children as fruit adds
a profound new dimension to the power of our offspring: They are not just
our future and our heirs, implying an extension of ourselves. And if you really
are self aware, you may wonder whether the greatest achievement in this world
is more of you… Rather: children are your pass to eternity. Instead of them
being your annex, they give you more than you give them: Fruit that will bear
fruit forever and ever.
This may explain the reverse
order for Judaism’s classic blessing: “Bon’ai, Chay’ai u’Mezon’ai,” children,
life and sustenance. The Arizal (in this week’s portion) questions the order
of these three blessings: The natural, chronological order is that first comes
sustenance, then life and finally children. Why is the order reversed? The
Arizal offers a mystical explanation (which is not in the scope of today’s
A pragmatic reason for
beginning with children is because children are the highest and ultimate purpose
of all our blessings. One may be blessed with sustenance, life and health,
but those only last one lifetime. Toldos – whether in the shape of actual
children, students or good deeds – live on forever. One fruit bearing another
bearing yet another, ad infinitum.
And how does one achieve
this? Say the sages: “Bon’ai, Chay’ai u’Mezon’ai lo b’zechuso talyeh eloh
b’mazlo talyeh,” children, life and sustenance are dependent not on merit
but on destiny (fortune?) (mazal). No doubt, that merit plays a role – zechus
ovos (the merit of our parents: their efforts and sacrifices). But above
all, humility in appreciating G-d’s blessings; that Toldos (and the
other two gifts) are not up to you and your “merits.” They are gifts that
are bestowed upon us.
It’s one thing understanding
and talking about this intellectually. It’s quite another experiencing it.
No words can fully (or
even partially) capture the sheer joy and inner ecstasy to see your child
find her soulmate. It’s far greater than your own love and marriage. Why should
that be? Of course, there is the pleasure of witnessing your child growing
up, from cradle to blooming flower. Not just witnessing. All the years of
effort, the challenges, the ups and the downs – all come flashing back at
you, as you walk your daughter to her marriage.
But there is something
more. Toldos is a taste of perpetuity, a piece of eternity – of a
fruit that will perpetually bear fruit. That is simply awesome.
There is much pain in
the world. When you have a reason to be joyous – cherish it.
And when it’s your child
– ahh, what can you say?
Then, you begin to think
about your own parents, and come to the realization that you too are a fruit
of your father and mother. Suddenly you appreciate the smile and the joy of
your own parents when they saw you find your happiness. And you so wish that
your father (in my case) could be here with you.
Finally, it dawns upon
you that Toldos didn’t begin today or yesterday. Your parents, those
mortal beings that you rarely appreciate, are but fruit of the trees that
As you step back – while
moving forward – you become smaller as you become bigger, and are overcome
by the overwhelming revelation that your parents, their parents and grandparents,
going back generation before generation, all the way to Isaac and Rebecca,
Abraham and Sarah and Adam and Eve, are all part of one unbroken chain of
Toldos fruits. Like one tree that regenerates annually, bearing new
fruit, all from the same tree, held fast by ancient roots, standing firm on
a fatherly trunk, protected by motherly leaves.
May you all bear fruit
and merit to see your fruit bear another generation, and another.