Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Birthright Stew

by Devora Gila Berkowitz

Parshat Toldot

We tend to think that Esav's a real blockhead.

Sell your birthright for a bowl of lentils? Give up eternity for immediate gratification? We just can't believe it.

Here's a bizarre twist to the story: When Yaakov takes advantage of Esav's animalistic nature (Bereshit 25:31), he goes completely against his grandfather Avraham's previous example (Bereshit, 18:6-8) While Avraham made extraordinary efforts to feed his guests -- who weren't even human -- Yaakov makes a deal in a weak moment when it comes to feeding his own flesh and blood. 

Yaakov knows he is meant to carry on Avraham's legacy. Why does he have to pull a fast one on his brother? Surely that's not the Torah way. What's going on?

Think of Esav and Yaakov as two complementary sides of ourselves. Esav is the gross material self, while Yaakov represents the spiritual, divine aspect. Just as the notorious Birthright-Stew Deal is a necessary move in the eventual playing out of the Geula process, sometimes our physical self needs to be tricked by our spiritual side in order to balance our whole being.

What is your "animal soul" up to these days? How can your "divine soul" influence it in a subtle way, without it knowing, for the sake of your well-being?

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