January 27, 2020 |

My Weekly Drash (a mini D'var Torah) - Toldot (2)

One of the more bizarre stories in the Torah is in this week’s Parshah Toldot. The notion of sibling rivalry between Esau and Jacob isn’t unusual, however the story of how Esau sold his birthright to Jacob or a bowl of lentil stew raises all sorts of questions. First, Esau is more interested in his stomach than his heritage. When Jacob makes his offer Esau replies, “I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?” (Gen. 25:32) He’s more interested in instant gratification. Second, as when he tricks Isaac into giving him the blessing intended for Esau, Jacob shows a less than savory side. Though the rabbis approve because Jacob continuing the line of Abraham and Isaac is presumably what God intends, that’s an “end justifies the means” argument. Jacob will pay the price for this behavior when his own sons take precisely the same “anything goes” attitude in selling Joseph into slavery. Neither Esau nor Jacob come off well in this story. While today Jews should cling to their “birthright” of the Torah, Jacob’s behavior here ought not be lightly glossed over.

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Daniel M. Kimmel

Joined: October 2, 2007

Daniel M. Kimmel is a Boston area film critic, lecturer and author. He does these weekly mini-lessons for the Mishkan Tefila Brotherhood's newsletter. You are free to use them for similar purposes.

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