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This Week's Torah Thought
From Rabbi Miller Tol'dot| תולדות
November 17th, 2017 28 Cheshvan 5778
To My Dear Students,
Today’s international trade deals can determine the financial fortunes of individuals and the economic destinies of nations. But long after NAFTA, PAFTA, AND SAFTA are forgotten, we will still study the lopsided trade agreement in this week’s Torah Portion, Toldot, for the universal truths it reveals about human nature.
The partners in this negotiation are the twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, sons of Isaac and Rebekkah. Esau returns famished from the hunt and comes upon Jacob stirring a fragrant soup. Esau implores his younger brother to give him some lentil soup and Jacob agrees on the condition that Esau gives Jacob the birthright. Esau hastily and carelessly does so and the deal is concluded.
What kind of man was Esau? An all too familiar one. He was a man of his appetites, of the moment, of physicality and superficiality. He was willing, even eager, to surrender so much for so little: a lifetime of leadership and responsibility that devolved upon him as first-born for some beans and broth. What kind of man was Jacob? One who considered the future when calculating his choices. Our tradition asks, “Who is wise?” and answers, “One who sees the thing being born,” that is, who sees what consequences may result from a present act.
So many today demonstrate Esau-like conduct, losing what is of utmost importance in the process. Titans of industry, government leaders, entertainers of stage and screen, and Hollywood moguls forfeited the respect of their families and their positions of leadership owing to the choices they made to satisfy their momentary appetites. The consequences and effects of their actions did not occupy a place in their thinking at all. All that mattered was their equivalent of Esau’s demand for soup now.
Four thousand years after Esau forfeited his birthright in exchange for a mess of pottage, the question that could be posed of him could just as readily be asked of so many today: “Why do people give up so much for so little?”
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