Project Genesis

Jewish Texts

Why is it called “Toldos” and not “Yitzchak”?

Question: If the portion of Noach begins “These are the children of Noach…” and the portion is then named Noach, why is this weeks portion which begins “These are the children of Yitzchak…” not called “Yitzchak” but “Toldos?”

Answer: Thank you very much for your recent inquiry about the naming of portions.

Quite simply: As far as possible a Parshah name should enable someone who knows nothing about the bible to identify the sections involved.

If I gave someone a Bible and asked “Which chapters are described by the word “Noach” then they would come up with Gen 5 – 10(Please read these chapters to make sure you understand what I am getting at). So Noach (Which covers parshos 6 -11) is a very GOOD parshah name.

But if I ask a person to identify all chapters described by the word Yitzchak they would include chapters starting at chapter 22. So the word Yitzchak is too broad.

I think the key to the Parshah of Toldoth is that it relates stories about THE CHILDREN. (Toldoth can mean both GENEALOGIES and CHILDREN). For parshat Noach, Toldoth means genealogies and indeed we have the genealogies of 70 nations! But for Parshat Toldoth, Toldoth, means THE CHILDREN. And indeed, we have several stories of the “children” – (the selling of the birthright at the beginning of the Parshah, the fight for blessings, the anger that could have led to murder, the brothers copying each other in obtaining good wives etc. We even have the story of Yitchak and Rivkah who were caught having a happy fun marriage.

So “the children” (Toldoth) is a good name for this parshah. It is certainly better than Yitzchak which could include everything starting from the birth of Yitzchak in chapter 20.

To summarize: A parshah should have a punchy name describing what is going on – GENEALOGIES describes Gen 6 – 9. THE CHILDREN describes Gen 27-30.

Hope this clarifies (And please reread the parshahs with this idea).

Russell Jay Hendel;

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