Rage Against the Pristine: Toldot 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Why is it that those who follow the rules often are undermined by those who don’t? Does this speak more to a lack of boldness by those who do follow the rules, or a society that wrongly rewards those who don’t?

When the Esau’s blessings are taken away from him due to Jacob’s larceny, Esau’s initial instinct is, understandably, anger:

The Pitch: “Now Esau harbored a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing which his father had given him, and Esau said to himself, ‘Let the mourning period of my father come, and I will kill my brother Jacob.’” – Genesis 27:41

Swing #1: “According to another opinion, Esau approached Ishmael and told him to kill his old rival Isaac. ‘Then,’ he said, ‘I will murder Jacob, and between us, we will be able to divide up the world.’ Although these were Esau’s words, his thoughts were very different. ‘Let Ishmael murder my father, and I will take care of Jacob. But then I will kill Ishmael to “avenge my father.” In the end, everything will be mine.’” – Shtei Yadot

Swing #2: “One of these glimmers comes to light when Jacob is forced to flee his brother’s ire. We cannot help but be struck by the irony that Jacob, who is now ‘the child of promise,’ has to vacate ‘the land of promise,’ while Esau, now bereft of birthright and primary blessing, is able to remain in that same land.” – Frank Anthony Spina, The Faith of the Outsider

Swing #3: “Said Rabbi Yudan: As soon as the Israelites came to do battle with Esau, the Holy One blessed be He showed Moses that same mount where the patriarchs were buried and said to him: ‘Moses, tell the Israelites: You cannot overcome him since the reward due to the honour he paid to those buried in this mount is still due to him.’” – D’varim Rabbah

Late-Inning Questions: The ancient rabbis never forgive Esau for wanting to kill Jacob, yet they are reluctant to criticize Jacob for actually following through on acts of trickery. Yet modern commentators are far more sympathetic to Esau. Why do you think that is? Do we need years of perspective before evaluating the characters of our ancestors? Are we too quick to judge people for their decisions? If so, why are we in such a rush?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Our Sisterhood’s annual Giving Thanks dinner takes place next Friday night, and as of this writing, there are only 11 spots left. If you haven’t already, make sure to RSVP for this wonderful annual tradition!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of people who get ahead by cheating, is it not bothersome that Gaylord Perry, who won more than 300 games by admittedly throwing the illegal “spitball”, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, while Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who still maintain that they never took steroids (in spite of evidence to the contrary), are not?

Shabbat Shalom!