November 19, 2017, Israel
This morning as I was reading the weekly portion of the Torah a thought occurred to me. We all know the story of how Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob. Esau came in from the field and was famished. He was hunting and was hungry and tired. "Jacob cooked a pottage of lentils and Esau came in from the field, and he was tired and hungry. So Esau said to Jacob, give me now some of this red red stuff to gulp down, for I am tired and hungry. Therefore in contempt he was called Edom, meaning Red" (Genesis chapter 25)
Seeing Esau's contemptible conduct Jacob offered to buy Esau's first born rights. Jacob saw Esau as being unworthy of those rights. Esau felt it was a good deal and took it, only to regret it later.
When considering the offer Esau responded with typical exaggeration and said, "I am about to die of hunger, why should I be concerned with a birthright."
Later on we read about how their father Isaac handled a situation. "There was a famine in the land that was unprecedented in severity, except for the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham, and Isaac went to the king of the Plishtim, of the Abimelech dynasty, to Gerar, with the intention of going to Egypt. The Eternal God appeared to him and said, Do not go down to Egypt, dwell in the land that I shall tell you."
Esau had faced a tough day and came home tired and hungry but clearly he was not truly facing starvation. And yet, he makes the rash decision to sell his birthright in order to satisfy his immediate hunger and urges. Thus he is viewed in a negative light. Isaac on the other hand, was truly facing a famine, but he did not act rashly. He approached a powerful alley to seek a solution to this challenge. And yet, as soon as God appeared to him and advised him to think long term, to think of this ultimate destiny in the land of Israel, Isaac turned back.
We see here two approaches: Isaac's approach is calculated. In the face of real danger he is seeking logical solutions. When God tells him that he must face this challenge in the Land of Israel, for that is where his ultimate destiny lies, he understands. Esau, on the other hand, can only see the short term. He must satisfy his hunger now. He feels he is "about to die" and therefore cannot appreciate the long term vision of the birthright of the first born. He gives up a glorious future to satisfy an immediate urge.
Our patriarchs are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Esau is dropped and not part of the legacy. His behavior disqualified him from eternal honor. He is given the name Edom as a disgraceful reminder of an event which shaped his character, which embodied his essence. From that point onward when someone lacks values we say, "You are selling yourself for a bowl of lentils" as that is the true legacy of Esau, one who gives up true eternal values to satisfy an immediate urge.
We seek to fulfill our destiny by sticking to true values and not being distracted by short term desires.