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Parashat Toldot 5777: How do we use our time?

In our Parashah we start to read about the story of Jacob our father and his relationship with his parents, but particularly with his brother Esau. It is such a human story, moving and easy to identify with. It is our story as well. In Jewish tradition, especially in Talmudic literature, Esau is perceived as the ultimate evil, the sinner, in contrast to Jacob the just, the innocent, the scholar, the good. Of course this has historical reasons, being that the future enemies of Israel: Edomites, Rome, Christianity (during Middle Ages), all of them were perceived as descendants of Esau. However, I want to ignore at this point the view of the Sages and let’s try to see Esau only as a man, Jacob’s brother, son of Isaac. I have a hard time seeing in the biblical Esau an evil man, rather I see a simple man. Innocent. Strong, but not capable of intrigues or great plans. The tragedy of Esau can be understood differently. There is a verse that says that Esau comes from the field “and he is tired”. Rabbi Soloveichik sees him as tired and desperate, not only because of the physical hardness of being a hunter, but because he has no belief system to give him strength, to justify his efforts. He lives for the moment, without a long term objective, without a project. Therefore, he doesn’t value his future rights as firstborn: “I will die and why do I need this birthright”. Who knows if there is any value in that right, if I will survive at all to use it. The lentils, on the other right, are in front of me and I am hungry… He is living for the moment without thinking of the future. In front of the huge truth of our mortality, of our death, that from the day we are born we actually begin to die, there are two possible answers. We can, like Esau, think that nothing matters, nothing makes a difference, I must take advantage of life now because tomorrow I will die and therefore I live only in the moment. On the contrary, we can adopt the approach of Jacob our father, where the fact that I will die must bring out the best in us, to know that we don’t have all the time in the World to achieve our dreams and objectives. A life that has an end has much more meaning than eternal life, where there is always tomorrow. No meaning to what I do because tomorrow I can do something else, because there is always enough time. That is a life without meaning. Our lives have meaning because we don’t have time and therefore our choices are so important, what will I study, which profession I will chose, who I will chose to befriend, to have a family with. All this questions are very important to us because the clock is ticking and we must make good choices. We live in a World of now, where we don’t know what we want but we want it now. We live in a World of seizing the moment because life is short, but taking advantage of life usually mean indulging only my physical needs. Eat what you want, drink what you want, do what you want. The message of Judaism, of Jacob, is that it is fine to enjoy life, it is right and important to enjoy our food, drink and our bodies in general, but only as a tool in the framework of developing our spirit, our understanding of the meaning of life, of our relationship with God and with other people. Two approaches, Esau and Jacob. Despair in front of death, lack of planning, the main thing is here and now. Or on the other side to take advantage of our time in Earth to enjoy life, but knowing that the main thing is beyond the material, is in our spiritual and emotional development. In the love we give and receive, in the good we do in the World, in the fixing of the World, the tikkun olam that we do as partners of God. May we have the merits of feeling partners to God, to enjoy life and live long lives, but when is our time to leave this World may we be able to see behind us and feel that we leave with meaning, with love and with the satisfaction of having made the right choices and having used properly the biggest present we got from God: Time!

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