Toldot: Starving For Stew

Despising the Birthright

In parsha Toldot, Esau returns home famished after a long day of hunting and finds his younger twin Jacob cooking a hearty lentil stew. Esau tells his brother to “give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished.” Jacob’s surprising response: “First sell me your birthright.” Even more surprisingly, Esau complies, because “I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?” After Esau eats his fill, he gets up and leaves. “Thus did Esau despise the birthright.” (Gen. 25:34)

How we know that Esau truly “despises” the birthright? After all, he seems to genuinely believe he is dying, so it’s a matter of life and death. The Maggid of Dubno (1740-1804) explains that if Esau trades away his birthright only to save his life, then once he finishes the meal and feels better, he will protest that he wasn’t in his right mind and try to annul the deal. Instead, Esau simply “rose and went away.” 

Don’t be like Esau. If you make a decision while in a state of heightened emotion, revisit your choice later and have the humility to correct any mistake you may have made.

Image: “The Lentil Stew” by Matthias Storm, 17th cent.

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