Excuse the question, but how many hours did you sleep last night? Are you tired and weary? When we speak about this week’s Torah portion of Toldot, we speak primarily about Ya’akov and Esav, about Esav’s sale of his birthright as the firstborn son, and about the blessing of Yitzchak Avinu. But what brings Esav to give up his birthright to Ya’akov? It’s a seemingly technical detail, yet full of meaning:
“Esav came in from the field and he was weary. He said to Ya’akov: ‘Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down since I am weary’.”
Esav was weary and the word appears here twice. A weary person cannot concentrate or focus. Peace of mind is gone along with the ability to act prudently. Esav does not even manage to say “lentil stew,” but blurts out “this red stuff” instead. In that state of mind, he is willing to give up his birthright, sell his leadership position as the firstborn, and forgo his holy potential — all for the sake of a single tasty gulp of food.
Our commentators explain that this episode reflects an eternal dilemma: Should we choose the spiritual or the materialistic path in life, the birthright or the food, eternal reward or instant gratification?
When Amalek, a descendant of Esav, comes to attack the nation of Israel, this word appears once more: “When you were weary and faint, and he [Amalek] did not fear G-d.” Weariness is likely to lead to moral weakness and decline until we are surrounded and attacked by those who have no faith. In contrast to this, wakefulness, vitality, and alertness are real and sustaining blessings. These blessings depend on sleep and restfulness, which are not only physically necessary, but essential to a spiritual life.
What Is The Greatest Kindness?
“Hi Sivan, this is Liad Margalit from the community of Bruchin, in Samaria, home to two amazing projects. The first project is called ‘Shulchan Baruch’ (Blessed Table). It began nearly twenty years ago and involves cooking food in our main kitchen by a rotation of community volunteers. The food is distributed to needy families on Erev Shabbat and before the holidays.
“The second project is ‘A Home for Life.’ It was established a little more than a year ago. This is a home for girls with special needs. They integrate into the community as they acquire life skills and learn how to live independently.
“This week something happened that may not seem to be a big deal but it was a climactic event for us. The girls from ‘A Home for Life’ volunteered to cook for the Shulchan Baruch project. They are accustomed to being on the receiving end of others’ assistance and it was therefore exciting for them and for us to see them giving to others. They were transformed from passive to active and experienced life in a new and meaningful way.
“We are now in the midst of Torah portions that are replete with acts of loving kindness. It seems to me that we do not sufficiently emphasize the potential of every individual, no matter what their situation, to be of help to others. The greatest kindness a person can do is to teach someone else how to be kind.”