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by Rabbi David Zauderer    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Everyone knows the famous story of Esau selling the birthright to his younger brother Jacob for some lentil soup. But what is lesser known is the exact nature of this birthright that Esau sold to Jacob.



Everyone knows the famous story of Esau selling the birthright to his younger brother Jacob for some lentil soup. But what is lesser known is the exact nature of this birthright that Esau sold to Jacob. The commentaries explain that the birthright involved the right to serve G-d in His sanctuary full time. In other words, to be able to lead a spiritually fulfilling life, as opposed to a life in which the focus is on materialism and pleasure-seeking.

Now I can understand that Esau wasnít interested in the spiritual "thang". He just wanted to live "la vida loco". After all, why bother with unimportant, irrelevant issues such as the meaning of life and whether or not there is a Higher Being who has a plan for us, when you can just spend your days running after all the possible pleasures and thrills you can find until you die?!

But, still, to give all that up for a little soup? He could have at least bargained with Jacob for a brand new Lamborghini or a trip to Aruba.

To answer this question, we first have to know a basic truth that the Torah teaches us about ourselves. As opposed to angels, who are referred to as "ohm-dim" meaning that they are static and that the level that they start with is where they remain, human beings who are graced with a living soul never remain at one spiritual level. We are either growing spiritually, or we are deteriorating--we are never static.

This means that there are two types of people in this world--those who want to grow and those who want to remain where they are, which, of course means that they will ultimately decline spiritually. These two types of people are represented by the most famous twins in history--Jacob and Esau. The name Esau comes from the Hebrew word "asui," which means fully formed and complete. Esau came out with a full head (and body) of hair, and was mature at birth beyond his infant years. Jacob relates to the Hebrew word "eikev," which means heel.

Their names reflected their essence (as names will always do, according to the Kabbalah). Esau saw himself as a complete and finished product with no need or interest in growth. Jacob, on the other hand, perceived himself to be at the heel, or bottom, as far as his spiritual growth and maturation was concerned. He felt that he had a long way to go and that there was so much to learn.

If we feel like we need to grow Jewishly and spiritually, never being complacent about where we are presently, then we are a Jacob personality. Whenever an opportunity presents itself for us to learn more about the bigger questions of life such as a Torah class or a dynamic speaker, weíll grab it much the same way Jacob seized the opportunity to get the birthright and all the spirituality contained within.

But if, G-d forbid, we are static as far as our Judaism is concerned, and we donít feel a need to grow in any way, then we are taking Esauís lead. Sometimes weíre presented with a great opportunity to explore what it means to be Jewish--like an exciting seminar about love, sex, and marriage from a Torah perspective, or a dynamic speaker talking about the roots of anti-semitism--but we pass it up to watch a football game.

We have a chance to expose our children to a fun and exciting Jewish program at the synagogue or JCC, but we pass it up to play a round of golf. This comes from being more like the personality of Jacobís twin--the type that feels like he knows whatever he needs to know Jewishly, and that thereís no real value or gain to be had from attending another Torah class. So why not trade it all for some lentil soup.

To grow or not to grow--that is the Jewish question. And it is a question we canít afford to leave unanswered.


Rabbi David Zauderer is a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.

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