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“And Eisav despised the birthright.” (25:34)

Whenever one studies this narrative, he will never cease to be amazed at Eisav’s apparent lack of sensitivity to anything of spiritual value. How does one sink so low as to exchange his prized inheritance for a mere bowl of lentil soup? Did Eisav completely lose his concept of spirituality?   Horav Yechezkel Levinstein Z”l notes that this is truly a case in which people follow a misguided perspective of life. How often do we measure success by the yardstick of prosperity, position, or social standing, while simultaneously belittling success in the field of Torah endeavor? How often do we…

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“And Yaakov said sell this day your birthright to me.” (25:31)

The Midrash cites that Yaakov resorted to self-sacrifice in order to attain the birthright from Eisav. It continues to justify Yaakov’s desire for the birthright. This seems puzzling, for we have no indication of self-sacrifice on Yaakov’s part in order to gain the birthright. The Torah only mentions that Yaakov was able to exact the birthright from Eisav through cunning and guile. We may suggest that Yaakov indeed displayed a magnificent sublime form of self-sacrifice. The attribute which characterized Yaakov, is emes (truth) and he excelled in it. For Yaakov to resort to what seems to be subterfuge, even justifiably,…

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“And Yaakov was a simple (perfect) man dwelling in tents.” (25:31)

Many definitions are applied to the word “tam” – simple, plain, scholarly, single-minded, etc. These attributes all apply to Yaakov’s character. The phrase dwelling in tents seems to refer to his amazing diligence in Torah study. Noting the plural term “tents”, the Midrash interprets the Torah’s emphasis to be a message that Yaakov went from one tent of Torah to another seeking whatever Torah knowledge was available. It therefore seems peculiar that the word used for describing Yaakov’s singular devotion to Torah study is “dwelling”. Would it not have been more appropriate to state that “Yaakov studies” in the tents…

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“And the first one came out ruddy all over like a hairy mantle, and they called his name Eisav.” (25:25)

Rashi explains that the name Eisav is derived from the root word vag (made). Consequently, the name Eisav was given to him because of his appearance. He was completely formed and matured. We may suggest that the Torah is not merely concerned with describing Eisav’s extraordinary physical appearance, but rather in teaching a fundamental spiritual message, as well. Eisav exemplified a unique type of evil, evil disguised as good. The Midrash compares him to a large vessel, externally bejeweled with diamonds, while internally consisting of earthenware. He cared only for the superficial, viewing himself as complete as long as he…

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“Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will be separated from inside you.” (25:23)

Rashi explains that while Yaakov and Eisav were still in the womb, they were distinct from one another. One was established in his evil ways and the other in his integrity. The Maharal asks, are we not taught that the evil inclination exerts its influence on the soul only from birth? Here we see that Eisav was already attempting to “run” to do evil while yet an embryo in his mother’s womb! He responds that Eisav did not simply accede to the effect of the evil inclination. Rather, Eisav was naturally attracted to evil elements.   Whatever the case, the…

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