Torah Portion: Tol’dot (Generations) B’resheet (Genesis) 25:19-28:9
Haftorah Reading: Malachi 1:1-2:7
Tonight we read a section of scripture that covers a large part of the history of Isaac, Rebekah and their son’s lives. We read about a family where decisions made caused heartaches and damage that had a long term effect on each life involved.
I would like to start our quest tonight by looking at the nature of the two sons to give us a background to help understand what happens later in their lives. Esau was the first born. He was a hairy man, a man of the field, a man’s man. He was the favorite of his father. Jacob was the second son born, scripture tells us he was “tam” meaning pure. He was a home body. He dwelt in tents.
In the last verse of chapter 25 we read of the conclusion of an incident between the two boys where Esau came in and said he was weary and wanted some of the lentil soup his brother was making. He described himself as being tired and needing to eat. Jacob made a deal with him saying he would share his soup if Esau would give him his birthright, the birthright Esau received being the firstborn son. Esau accepted the terms and exchanged his rights as the first born for a bowl of soup. In Genesis 25: 34 it is written, Esau despised his birthright. In Hebrew the word for despised is Yabez, which means he wasted or threw it away. The verse ends with the four Hebrew verbs meaning he ate, drank, got up and left. This is a strong picture of a person who was ruled by impulse, giving little or no thought of the outcome of his actions. I read an article this week that struck me as a lesson for us all when we are faced with decisions each day. Sometimes we face decisions like Esau in this passage. Each of us have the same finite time on this earth. The issue is what do we decide to do with it. Some people decide to trade family time for business success. Often this results in the loss of family. We see every day the result of bad decisions on how to use our time. Sometimes we act impulsively and do something in the moment that will affect our life for years.
Esau, here in our verses, made a rash decision that had disastrous results for not only him but for the entire family. In Genesis 26:34 we read again about a decision he made that brought much grief to his mother and father. This decision was marrying two Hittite women. He wanted a wife and took them from the local people.
The very next verse started the saga of the blessings given to Jacob and later to Esau. Jacob’s hands are not clean in these verses. He listened to his mother and agreed to deceived his father and received the Abrahamic blessing to become the third patriarch of the Jewish people.
However, his decision had far reaching effects as well. He himself is later deceived by his father in law Laban. Also, his favorite son, Joseph, is later sold into slavery by his brothers and Jacob thought he was dead. Jacob suffered the consequences of his decision, both his mother and father suffered as well as Esau. My point in all of this is that our decisions in life have consequences that we sometimes do not consider.
In school we study and then take a test. In life, often the test comes first and then you learn from the test. Each day we face these tests. Usually, no one tells us, here comes a test be ready. We often don’t recognize the test until it is over and we see the results. Esau would not have sold his birthright for a bowl of soup if he had taken the time to consider what the result of this one impulsive act might be. In our life we must stay connected to the Father every day, every minute so when we are faced with a test we can rely not on our feelings or desires but on what G-d would expect us to do. Both Esau and Jacob failed their test.
Their mother, Rebekah failed as well. She knew the truth she had heard from G-d’s mouth. The younger son, Jacob would be the one to take the Abrahamic mantle. Her test was to trust that G-d had this. However, rather than that she chose to enlist her son Jacob to help G-d out. Sometimes G-d gives us a test to rely on Him. Our task is to be at peace with what we know G-d has said, to go through the doors He opens but to not try to pry them open ourselves.
We have a powerful asset to help us. Prayer. Even here we read in Genesis 25:21 where Isaac pleaded with G-d for his wife to be able to have a child. The word for prayed is Yater. This means to pray but to pray with everything you have. To plead would be a good translation. It means to dig up the ground. To bare ourselves to the Father, to search out His heart. This is so important for us. Prayer should change us. It is not just us coming with a list to G-d but more us lining our list up with His, searching out His will and putting ourselves into a place of being used by G-d to do His will, not just our wants but His.