Meeting Mrs. Right: Toldot 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever made a change in your life mainly to get someone else to notice? Was it worth it, or did you feel that you compromised yourself too much?

After Jacob leaves his childhood home, Esau makes a transition of his own:

The Pitch: “Esau realized that the Canaanite women displeased his father Isaac. So Esau went to Ishmael and took to wife, in addition to the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, sister of Nebaioth.” – Genesis 28:8-9

Swing #1: “Esau is not concerned by the fact that the daughters of Canaan are bad also in the eyes of Rebecca, his mother, who estranged herself to him. He is disturbed only by the fact that they are bad ‘in the eyes of Isaac his father,’ who openly showed his love for him. Moreover, even in his terrible rage at the deceitful act of Jacob, Esau manages – at least for the meantime – to hold back his desire to execute judgment for himself and to kill his brother.” – Rav Amnon Bazak in Torah MiEtzion: New Readings in Tanach, Rabbi Ezra Bick and Rabbi Yakov Beasley, ed.

Swing #2: “When Esau returned and asked for what was rightfully his, Isaac feigned outrage at Jacob’s trickery. But he did not, it should be noted, undo what had been done. He knew he’d made no mistake. Instead, he made clear the one condition for Jacob winning his father’s favor: ‘Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.’ Esau, for his part, sulked off in a huff, and did the one thing he knew could still [anger] his parents. He went and took yet another wife. This time an Ishmaelite.” – Joshua Foer in Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle With the Torah, Roger Bennett, ed.

Swing #3: “The Torah tells us here that Esau’s only concern was the effect his Canaanite wives had on his father’s sensibilities. The fact that these women were evil by nature did not bother him. … Perhaps Esau’s only concern was that his father’s blessing would not be applicable to children born to him by his Canaanite wives.” – Or HaChaim

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators see Esau’s decision to take a new wife as a step in the right direction or as a cynical gesture to the rest of his family? What message do you think Esau is trying to send? What is the right balance of pleasing others and pleasing ourselves?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: Our next Drive-Up event, which will take place Sunday, November 21st, from 10:30 am-12 noon, will solicit items to help new Afghan refugees moving to Buffalo.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of cynical gestures, I hope the World Series has made people see that the Atlanta Braves’ Tomahawk Chop needs to go. Even if you don’t find it offensive, the way I see it, the Braves would only win brownie points — and make money — by choosing a new nickname, new uniforms, and a new identity.

Shabbat Shalom!