web analytics
March 6, 2015 / 15 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Parshat Toldot

Hertzberg-110113

Later this month we will be commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Despite the passage of time the two-minute speech still resonates with us and remains one of the most effective speeches in history. In just over 270 words Lincoln changed the nature of the Civil War. I have written previously about this aspect of the speech. In this column I would like to focus on a different leadership lesson from the events surrounding the Gettysburg Address, namely, never underestimating the potential of even the smallest opportunity.

As is relatively well known, Lincoln was not the main speaker that November day. Edward Everett was scheduled to deliver the main oration. In fact, Lincoln might have been invited as an afterthought since the cemetery dedication was primarily a state and not a federal affair. Lincoln’s invitation was issued on November 2, 1863, with the dedication scheduled for less than three weeks away. David Wills, who oversaw the project, sent Lincoln the following late invitation. (Note the restrictions placed on Lincoln.)

After relating in his opening paragraph the need for the cemetery Wills writes: “These grounds will be consecrated by appropriate ceremonies, on Thursday, the 19th instant. Hon Edward Everett will deliver the oration. I am authorized by the governors of the different states to invite you to be present, and participate in these ceremonies, which will doubtless be very imposing and solemnly impressive.”

In the third paragraph Wills formally requests Lincoln to speak. “It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the Nation, formally set apart these grounds to their Sacred (sic) use by a few appropriate remarks [italics added].”

There are historians who maintain that the event’s organizers expected Lincoln to decline the invitation due to his busy schedule. But Lincoln saw an opportunity – an opportunity to deliver a game-changing speech. Whereas other people might have taken umbrage by the timing and tone of the invitation, Lincoln kept his eye on the prize. What’s more, Lincoln kept within his prescribed parameters. Once Lincoln began speaking he could have spoken at length. We can hardly imagine people asking the president to stop in the middle of a speech. Yet Lincoln respected his invitation. As history demonstrates, he certainly limited his speech to a “few appropriate remarks.”

Leaders must always be on the lookout for opportunities, no matter how small and insignificant they appear. The Torah at the beginning of this week’s parsha teaches us this lesson very clearly. Upon returning from a hard day of hunting and killing, Esav describes to his brother Yaakov his absolute and total exhaustion. To further aggravate his state of mind, Esav is also famished (perhaps an indication of a less than stellar day at the office). At the time of Esav’s arrival Yaakov was cooking a lentil stew. Seeing this, Esav demands that Yaakov pour him some of his red food (25:30).

Yaakov, who up to this point was focused on cooking (according to Rashi the food was for Yitzchak who was in mourning for Avraham), senses an opportunity. Unlike Esav, Yaakov valued both the responsibilities and privileges of the first-born’s birthright. It was Yaakov’s dream to acquire these rights so that he could serve Hashem in the highest capacity possible. But throughout his life, he had to bide his time. Now, suddenly the moment of truth presented itself. According to Seforno, Yaakov picked up on the fact that Esav could not even identify the food item he was cooking. Instead of referring to it by its name he simply called it by its color. Yaakov realized that Esav’s major flaw was that he was addicted to his work. Seizing the moment, in true carpe diem fashion, Yaakov explained to Esav that if he is so absorbed with his hunting that he can’t even recognize simple food, he would never be able to properly learn and pay attention to all the details involved in serving Hashem. He proposed that Esav sell him his birthright in exchange for food. Esav, realizing that Yaakov had a point gladly agrees. To solidify the deal, Yaakov has Esav take an oath.

Following the transaction Esav eats his food and mocks the birthright. It is interesting to note that Rashbam posits further that Esav truly thought he was getting the better part of the deal. He considered that as a hunter, whose life is constantly at risk, it was likely he would die before his father anyway. Therefore, when an opportunity to sell the birthright presented itself he jumped at it and immediately profited from the sale.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division and is an adjunct assistant professor of History at Touro College.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Parshat Toldot”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
A ZAKA team in action.
ZAKA Rescued Body of Abandoned Jewish Soldier Who Died for Ukraine
Latest Judaism Stories
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

To the glee of all Israel haters it was Netanyahu who was accused of endangering US-Israel relations

Ki Tisa_lecture

Over and over, the text tells us about “keeping” Shabbat, about holiness, and a covenant – but why?

Aaron and  The Golden Calf by James Tissot

Aharon’s guilt with the golden calf is not clear-cut. What if Moshe were in his brother’s place?

Rabbi Sacks

The Sabbath is a full dress rehearsal for an ideal society that has not yet come to pass-but will

When Hashem told Moshe of the option to destroy the people and make him and his descendants into a great nation, Hashem was telling Moshe that it is up to him.

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

An Auto Accident
‘All Agree That They Are Exempt’
(Kesubbos 35a)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Why would the exemption of women from donating the half shekel exempt them from davening Musaf?

This concept should be very relevant to us as we, too, should be happy beyond description.

The Holocaust was the latest attempt of Amalek to destroy the special bond that we enjoy with God.

One can drink up to the Talmud’s criterion to confuse Mordechai and Haman-but not beyond.

“The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Esav” gives great insight to Purim

Purim is the battleground of extremes, Amalek and Yisrael, with Zoroastrian Persia in between.

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

More Articles from Rabbi David Hertzberg
Hertzberg-021315

The Torah presents us with a model of how to effect change in a sustainable way.

Hertzberg-011615-Gen-Haig

Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of Britain’s men is not too great a price to pay.

This ability to remain calm under pressure and continue to see the situation clearly is a hallmark of Yehuda’s leadership.

Leaders must always pay attention to the importance of timing.

Realizing that his death was immanent and he had only a few more moments, Moshe focuses on doing the most important thing: he runs to Bnei Yisrael and blesses them.

Perhaps the most important leadership lesson Elkana taught us is to never underestimate the difference a single person can make.

Eisenhower understood that motivated men will fight much harder and longer than unmotivated men.

When Germany invaded neutral Belgium on August 4, England declared war on Germany. Thus, by the end of the first week of August all the major powers of Europe were at war.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-toldot-4/2013/11/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: