Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Toldos) Bounce Back!

Our Sages tell us that while our matriarch Rivka was expecting, she had a disturbing experience. When she passed a place of idol worship, she felt her baby kicking as if it wanted to get out, and when she passed a place where Torah was studied, her baby also began kicking as if it wanted to get out.

Frustrated and disturbed about this, Rivka went the sage Shem the son of Noach to discuss the matter. The Torah relates that G-d told Rivka that she was not carrying one child in her womb who couldn’t decide his allegiance, rather, she was carrying twins and each one would develop differently. Aisav and Yaacov were born and their differences were immediately discernible. Yaacov was a diligent student of Torah, while Aisav was out hunting and playing around.

Until they reached their teens Aisav was able to hide his true wicked self. However, on the day that his grandfather Avraham passed away, Aisav committed adultery, idolatry and murder. He came home exhausted and famished. He found his brother Yaacov cooking lentils, which is the traditional meal served to mourners, for those returning from Avraham’s funeral.

Aisav asked Yaacov for some lentils. Yaacov, grabbing the opportunity, asked Aisav if he was willing to sell his Firstborn right in exchange for the lentils. Aisav, reasoning that all the spiritual responsibilities that come along with the firstborn right would only get him into trouble and that he had no need for it, said, “of course!”

Yaacov, to make sure that Aisav was not under duress when he made his decision first fed him bread to restore his strength, and only then gave him the lentils. The Birthright and the entitlement to the Patriarchal blessings were thus sold to Yaacov.

Rabbi Yaacov Kanievsky o.b.m. presents the following insight: The Torah relates that Aisav humiliated and embarrassed the birthright. At the time of the sale, Aisav displayed a mocking attitude towards the spiritual value of the Birthright and thought he got the better end of the deal with the physical enjoyment of a bowl of soup. However, after he enjoyed the lentils and had his fill, he felt a certain void within his heart.

You see, Aisav, as bad as he was, since he was raised in the heightened spiritual environment of his father Yitzchok and grandfather Avraham had an idea of what the Birthright was all about. The sale of the Birthright kept gnawing within him. It got to the point that Aisav actually began to believe that Yaacov manipulated and deceived him during the sale of the Birthright, but the Torah attests that Aisav sold the Birthright with his full heart.

Yitzchok unaware that Aisav sold the Birthright to Yaacov, wished to bestow the firstborn blessing on Aisav.
Yaacov was advised by his mother (who knew about the sale) to present himself before his father instead of Aisav to receive the Blessings and indeed he received them. The Torah relates that when Aisav found out he was outsmarted by his brother, he gave out an intense cry. This cry was the realization of what he gave up. At this point Aisav could have regrouped and maintained his remorseful spirit and possibly worked out a partnership with Yaacov in his spiritual pursuits.

However, the Torah tells us that Aisav bounced right back to his wicked self and instead decided to kill Yaacov after his parents’ death.

Rabainu Bechaya points out that Aisav’s approach and style of selling off spiritual pursuits, such as the Birthright, for the enjoyment of physical delights and sinful behavior is a struggle that mankind constantly wrestles with. Further on, the Torah describes a struggle that Yaacov had when he encountered an angel. Our Sages tell us that the angel was actually the angelic officer of Aisav.

They struggled through the night and finally Yaacov overpowered the angel and received a blessing from the angel. However, the angel was able to bruise Yaacov’s thigh. The Torah tells us that when the sun came up it healed Yaacov’s wound.

And so it is. We, the descendants of Yaacov are continually challenged with the negative force of our evil inclination which is represented by the angel of Aisav. This force tries to sidetrack us from our sacred mission. We struggle with it and many times we are victorious. But there are times when we fall prey to its enticements.

Yaacov taught us not to give in to spiritual setbacks or defeat. Rather we are to pick ourselves up with a resolve to repair our spiritual wounds and forge on with strength and determination – and yearn for the feeling of satisfaction and contentment that comes from following the righteous path extolled by our patriarchs.

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks