A Disastrous Meating: Toldot 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What kind of “fuel” do you need to get through the day? Is there a kind of food you eat every day (or would if you could)? Do you require caffeinated beverages to be at your best, or do you try to do without? What happens to you if you try to operate without your favorite “fuel”?

The infamous scene of Isaac blessing his sons begins with Isaac asking Esau to provide him with his favorite meal:

The Pitch: “Take your gear, your quiver and bow, and go out into the open and hunt me some game. Then prepare a dish for me such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my innermost blessing before I die.” – Genesis 27:3-4

Swing #1: “Jacob blessed all his sons before he died, not just his first-born. Why, then, did Isaac want to bless Esau only? Such was the decree from heaven. Had Isaac provided a separate blessing for Jacob, later generations would have argued that the Jewish people were worthy of these blessings only as long as they would be on the same high moral level as Jacob had been. Accordingly, the Lord ordained that Isaac should intend to to give the blessing to Esau alone. Then it would be understood that the blessing would be applicable to the Jewish people at all times, even when they would sink very low indeed, for they could never become more evil than Esau.” – Rabbi Isaac of Warka

Swing #2: “Esau, my son, I am not a youngster anymore. I do not know how long God will allow me to enjoy this life. But one thing I do know is how much you give to me: your selfless devotion and loyalty. Please, take your gear and hunt some game, and prepare it just the way I love. Bring it to me so we can eat together. Then I will give you my blessing. So often you have been my support, doing all that I have needed. It is now time for me to give to you that which you deserve as my first-born son: to reciprocate your affection and love.” – Norman J. Cohen, Voices From Genesis: Guiding Us Through the Stages of Life

Swing #3: “He asked for tasty dishes so that his son would earn the merit of fulfilling the commandment to honor his father. Having earned this merit, the blessing his father would bestow on him would take hold, be effective. Even though Isaac had no idea of the extent of his son’s wickedness, he did realize that he had not earned the blessing he was about to receive. This is why, when he blessed Jacob afterwards, he did not bother to ask him to do something first in order to qualify for his blessing. He knew that Jacob deserved it.” – Sforno

Late-Inning Questions: While Rabbi Isaac of Warka and Sforno claim that Isaac knew, deep-down, that Jacob deserved his father’s best blessings, Cohen indicates a true connection between Isaac and Esau. Which approach seems more plausible to you? How does your view of Isaac change depending on your answer?

The Big Inning at the End: The razor-thin margin of Giancarlo Stanton’s win as National League Most Valuable Player indicates a broad acceptance of using advanced metrics to understand baseball. Traditionally, someone who would hit 59 home runs like Stanton did would have been a unanimous selection. The fact that the vote was so close shows that more people are accepting a more nuanced view of the game, which is a good thing. (Though I would’ve preferred Joey Votto, Stanton is a perfectly worthy winner.)

Shabbat Shalom!