Parashat Toldot – November 18, 2017 – 29 Cheshvan 5778

It is perplexing that Esau would so blithely give up his birthright for something as trivial as a bowl of lentils. What caused him to so readily part with his patrimony?

Upon coming in from the field, Esau noted that his brother Jacob was cooking lentils; a dish Jewish tradition has long associated with mourning. According to the Midrash, Esau asked, “Who died”? Jacob answered, “Grandpa Abraham.” Immediately, Esau concluded that his birthright was worthless if a man as close to God as Abraham wasn’t holy enough to regain the immortality of the Garden of Eden.

Esau suffered the loss of a grandfather he evidently held in awe. It was an experience which shattered his faith. But even worse, he gave up. Loss of faith doesn’t have to mean giving up. Sometimes loss of faith can be a step in the right direction.

The Hasidic leader, R. Moshe Leib of Sassov, believed that virtually any human trait could be good, depending upon the circumstances. His disciples challenged him to come up with a situation that would vindicate loss of faith. He answered, “When we see pain and suffering, and we have the tendency to think that God will act so that we are absolved from taking action, that is when it would be better not to have faith in God at all.”

Loss and suffering are part of the human experience. Some lose faith in self-pity, others offer “thoughts and prayers,” while a few suspend faith in favor of action.

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine