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    My favourite sidra – Tol’dot

    Everyone has a favourite Biblical story, psalm or sidra.

    I don’t much like that game. I can plead the case for every chapter of the Tanach. So can almost every rabbi.

    One colleague tells his congregation every single Shabbat, “What a powerful parashah it is this week!” Another says, “What a really great sidra with so many ideas that wash over our minds!”

    Now I have retired I can, however, allow myself a special fondness for this week’s portion. Not so much because of the story but by reason of the title: Tol’dot – generations, narrative, history.

    I spend much of my time these days researching and writing history.

    I had a teacher who told us that “history” was two words – “his” and “story”. Those days I didn’t realise how sexist he was. Did he ever think that there was such a thing as “her story” too?

    His etymology was wrong in any case, since “history” is from a classical root that means to enquire or judge.

    Nonetheless I have been a history addict all my life. I have never been satisfied to accept things without delving into the factors that made them. Nor am I content to use tunnel vision and not see the wider context.

    But I have another agenda, another tense: not only what is and how it came, but what will be. History is the background, the present day the arena, and destiny the challenge.

    This is the thought which I ponder each year when I think of Tol’dot.

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