Toledot: Living for the Moment Vs. Eternal Values

In parshat Toledot we find two opposing world views expressed respectively by Jacob and Esau. One world view sees physical pleasure as the ultimate goal. It stresses the present. It downplays the consequences of one’s actions. It’s motto: “Live for Today!” The other world view stresses spirituality and places the service of G-d at the center of man’s existence. Man must take account of his actions, for the future depends on it.

Esau’s brusque demand (Genesis 25-30): “Let me swallow, I pray thee, some of this red, red (pottage)”, expresses the first world view. Esau uses his intellect to search and figure out ways to satisfy his desires. His intellect is subject to his body. This point is emphasized again (Ibid:35): “And he ate and drank and rose and went on his way.” It isprecisely this “Living for Today” which makes Esau weak and susceptible to Yaakov’s offer to buy his birthright. After all, what is a birthright – a vague honor, an ambiguous title which only has real implications for the distant future – compared to a steamy pot of lentils after a hard day of hunting? And so, this bestial quality is exploited by Yaakov – “And Esau said: Behold, I am going to die; and what profit shall the birthright be to me?” (25-32)

Yaakov is exactly the opposite. He plants seeds today and he will reap the harvest tomorrow. He does not give in to passing desires. He has the ability to see the future and plan for it. His intellect is master overhis body, and his G-dly image is plain for all to see. He patiently waits until he receives the blessing fifteen years later. This behavior stands in sharp contrast to Esau, who at this point is finally exposed before his father Yitzchak and hysterically bursts in to tears: “he cried with an exceeding great and bitter cry” (27-34) and said: “for he has tricked me these two times: he took away my birthright; and behold, now, he has now taken away my blessing.” (27-36) Here we see the infantile irrationality the moment his illusions explode. For Esau realizes, albeit, too late, the consequences of “living for today”. For a fleeting pleasure he sacrificed something truly valuable. The illusion of materialism is shattered. His brother receives eternal blessing and he – a lousy pot of lentils.

All this is quite pertinent in helping to understand the present state of Israel and the peace (re: suicide) process. It is the same Esavian plague which causes the “peacenicks” to be so eager to throw away it’sbirthright, and it’s homeland for a figurative pot of lentils; empty andvague promises of “peace” when all of history and common sense point inthe opposite direction. Just as Esau was already fully formed from birth(the Hebrew word for Esau means “made” or “formed”, as Rashi says: for at birth he was formed and completed with his hair as one of many years), so do the peacenicks come with ready-made plans for a peace “now”. But similar to Esau, this approach is void of any real content, for they forsake the future and eternal aspect of the Jewish Nation.

We, the children of Yaakov, approach life according to the covenant thatwas promised to us. Peace? Only “if in my statutes you walk”. Any otherway will lead to tragedy, and all other answers will blow up in the faces of the “now” people, who will burst into an exceeding and bitter cry as did their original predecessor, Esau.

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