A POT OF BEANS
Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich
In this week's Torah portion, we read about the birth of Jacob and Esau, and the different natures and interests characterizing each of these boys. Jacob is the diligent student of Torah, while Esau is infatuated with the outdoors, demonstrating great skill in hunting and trapping animals.
In this week's Torah portion, we read about the birth of Jacob and Esau, and the different natures and interests characterizing each of these boys. Jacob is the diligent student of Torah, while Esau is infatuated with the outdoors, demonstrating great skill in hunting and trapping animals. However as the boys mature, Esau veers completely from a moral course and knows no limits in the quest to satisfy his desires.
The Midrash tells us that on the very day on which Abraham died, Esau committed some of the most heinous crimes, including murder and rape, returning home that evening fully exhausted and on the verge of collapse. This is what the Torah means when it tells us that Esau came home from the field tired (Genesis 25:29). The famished Esau takes note of his brother Jacob brewing a delicious lentil stew (which was to be eaten by Isaac during the seudat havarah, the first meal served to mourners upon returning from the cemetery), and in his typically boorish manner, Esau implores of Jacob to give him a portion of the tasty broth. Jacob, sensing an advantage over Esau, offers him the stew in exchange for the bechora, the spiritual birthright reserved for the first born. Esau contemplates the offer and cynically responds, "Behold I'm going to die one day, so what do I need the birthright for anyway?" (ibid. 25:32). Amazingly, Esau barters away eternity and spiritual distinction for a pot of beans. A pot of beans. Is he crazy.
Rather than deal with Esau and his warped value system, let us look inwardly and wonder if we too squander away opportunities to achieve eternity for our own version of a "pot of beans."
Our rabbis tell us about the awesome merit one accrues for responding the phrase "Y'hei sh'mei rabba m'vorach -- May His great name be blessed" during the recital of the kaddish prayer. Such a response has the power to annul a lifetime of harsh decrees set against us. But how many of us find ourselves talking nonsense with our friends rather than seizing this powerful spiritual moment? When confronted with the opportunity to go to synagogue or with giving up the chance to watch a favorite TV show, do we opt for eternity or the idiot box?
When the rabbi studies a short halacha between Mincha and Ma'ariv services, do we run to hear the lesson, or do we step outside to hear the gossip? Don't we also squander chances for eternity in exchange for our "pot of beans"? Esau may have been crazy, but can't we also find a little bit of Esau inside ourselves which we must strive to eliminate? May Hashem grant us the wisdom to serve him faithfully.
Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich has been a teacher at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta for over a decade.
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