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Parshat Toldot 5782


Imagine answering a knock on the door one afternoon, to a neighbour offering you $1000 for the beaten-up old vase on your front hall table. It’s a no-brainer; you’d take the money in a flash and slam the door on him before your friend could change his mind. Money for nothing! However, how would you subsequently feel to learn that the ceramic vase was actually a collector’s item, worth a fortune on the antique market.

That sense of glee over pulling off a fantastic deal was Esav’s state of mind as he sold his birthright to his naïve younger brother. Yakov was willing to feed him an all-you-can-eat delicious meal, payable on the spot, and all Esav had to promise in return, was that one day in the distant future Yakov would be recognised as the firstborn, whatever that means.

Is it any wonder then that the Torah records how Esav ate, drank, got up and left, spurning his birthright (Toldos 25:34). You know why he got up and left so quickly?  It’s because he was afraid that Yakov would back out on the deal.

Esav lived in the moment. He was a hunting man of the fields, who took his chances where he found them. Here today, gone tomorrow. Living the good life, with never a care other than the next conquest or chance at a big score. Yakov, by contrast, lived a relatively sedentary life. He was ‘a simple man, who dwelled in the tents of Torah and rarely ventured far from home to test his wits in the big, wide world.

Yet rather than being naïve, Yakov was playing the long game. Yakov recognised that the good things in life compound over time and that one day that birthright would appreciate in value. That spurned heritage, which Esav rejected so cavalierly, became the legacy that Yakov left to us, his descendants. We became the chosen nation because Yakov was willing to sacrifice his short-term interests to invest in the future and it was this ability to delay gratification and recognise the inherent value of Torah and Judaism that allowed him to become the forefather of an eventual nation.

We all constantly wrestle with a similar dilemma; the challenge of sacrificing short-term enjoyment to work towards the future. It is so tempting to while away one’s time, enjoying oneself at the back of the room as your more studious classmates pay attention to the teacher. It’s been such a difficult past 20 months with Covid and lockdowns, who can blame you for wanting to take some days off work to socialise and enjoy the newly announced freedoms. Playing computer games or gambling on the horses seems so much more enjoyable than learning Torah or saving for a rainy day. However, it’s precisely by making the right choices now that you’ll set yourself up for future success.

We are the children of Yakov. As Esav runs away, clicking his heels with glee and convinced that he got the better deal, we are assured that Hashem recognises our sacrifices for Judaism and will repay us with nothing but good fortune, happiness and nachas.

Reprinted with permission from Rabbi Lishee Greenbaum, Lchaim chabad Moorabin

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