Rabbi Eisen’s Shabbat Shalom Message

Shabbat Shalom!


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Candlelighting for
Friday, December 2, 2016 • 5:00pm

• Our Portion for the Week

TOLEDOT – GENESIS 25:19 – 28:9
In this portion we follow events in the lives of Isaac and Rebekah. Twin sons – Esau and Jacob – are born and their struggles before birth foreshadow later conflicts between the nations they are to found. Although Jacob is the younger, he tricks Esau out of his birthright. Isaac, like Abraham, meets a number of challenges and is assured by God that he will have many descendants and possess the land of Canaan. When Isaac feels his end approaching and arranges to pass the blessing of succession on to Esau, Rebekah connives to have Jacob trick his father and get the blessing for himself. Jacob must then flee to the ancestral homeland to escape Esau's wrath, but before he leaves, Isaac intentionally passes on to him the blessing of Abraham. This action attests that the leadership of the Jewish People depends on God's plan, not an accident of birth.

• Our Question for the Week •

And Esau said to Jacob, "Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished"-which is why he was named Edom. Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." And Esau said, "I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?"
(Genesis 25:30-32)

The violent imagery of Esau's demand to be fed shows that he not only wants to satisfy his physical appetite, but also his need to dominate his younger brother. When people act aggressively, to what degree is their motivation to get what they are immediately pursuing, and to what degree are they simply trying to establish power over someone or something else?

The specific words Esau uses in his dialogue with Jacob shows that he is committing heinous crimes and violations of the Torah. Putting aside for a moment whether Esau deserves this treatment, does a handful of words indicate a much larger worldview? If so, what does this say about the priority to limit evil speech in our lives?

The transfer of the birthright shows that Esau is impulsive while Jacob is a planner. What are the pros and cons of each tendency? Is it important to strike a balance between living by impulse and living according to plan, or is it better to recognize which trait you embody more, and try to live as well as one can given that trait? Must we have a little bit of Jacob and a little bit of Esau inside us, or is it preferable to emulate one more than the other?