Torah Weekly

For the week ending 29 November 2003 / 4 Kislev 5764

Parshat Toldot

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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After 20 years of marriage, Yitzchak's prayers are answered and Rivka conceives twins. The pregnancy is extremely painful. G-d reveals to Rivka that the suffering is a microcosmic prelude to the worldwide conflict that will rage between the two great nations descended from these twins, Rome and Israel. Esav is born, and then Yaakov, holding on to Esavs heel. They grow and Esav becomes a hunter, a man of the physical world, whereas Yaakov sits in the tents of Torah developing his soul. On the day of their grandfather Avrahams funeral, Yaakov is cooking lentils, the traditional mourner's meal. Esav rushes in, ravenous from a hard days hunting, and sells his birthright (and its concomitant spiritual responsibilities) for a bowl of lentils, demonstrating his unworthiness for the position of firstborn. A famine strikes Canaan and Yitzchak thinksof escaping to Egypt, but G-d tells him that because he was bound as a sacrifice, he has become holy and must remain in the Holy Land. He relocates to Gerar in the land of the Philistines, where, to protect Rivka, he has to say she is his sister. The Philistines grow jealous of Yitzchak when he becomes immensely wealthy, and Avimelech the king asks him to leave. Yitzchak re-digs three wells dug by his father, prophetically alluding to the three future Temples. Avimelech, seeing that Yitzchak is blessed by G-d, makes a treaty with him. When Yitzchak senses his end approaching, he summons Esav to give him his blessings. Rivka, acting on a prophetic command that the blessings must go to Yaakov, arranges for Yaakov to impersonate Esav and receive the blessings. When Esav in frustration reveals to his father that Yaakov has bought the birthright, Yitzchak realizes that the birthright has been bestowed correctly on Yaakov and confirms the blessings he has given Yaakov. Esav vows to kill Yaakov, so Rivka sends Yaakov to her brother Lavan where he may find a suitable wife.


The Green Green Stuff

"Pour into me now some of that red red stuff" (25:32)

We live in a world of addiction. And not just to drugs. There are addictions to sweets and chocolate, to TV programs and to golf.

One modern addiction even has its own name: "Workaholism."

Everyone needs to work. Every one needs to find a way to put chicken on the table for Shabbat. The Mishna in Pirkei Avot tells us that we should minimize our involvement with business and maximize our time spent learning Torah. We live in a physical world, but we must never become enmeshed in it. There is no mitzvah for a person to be a workaholic. Work was designed to be a curse: "By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread." The irony is that nowadays the curse has been embraced as a blessing.

In this weeks Torah portion, we find the worlds first workaholic:

"Pour into me now some of that red red stuff" Esavs other name is Edom, meaning "red". Esav returned so exhausted from work that he recognized the lentils Yaakov was cooking only by their color.

Esav had lost the basic human recognition of "what things are," and degenerated to the level of "what things look like." He had lost the basic human understanding of essence, and grasped only the superficial. When Yaakov saw this spiritual degeneration he realized that Esav was in no way fit for the spiritual duties incumbent on the first-born, and immediately asked him to sell him the birthright.

This is the difference between the descendents of Yaakov and Esav to this day. Yaakov grasps the world of the inside, whereas Esav lays hold of only the surface, the outside.

Being a workaholic is not a Jewish thing.

Source: Based on the Sforno in Lev Eliyahu

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