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Table Talk – Toledot

Twin Talk: We know that Jacob and Esau were twins. Were they identical? Esau is described as possessing unique coloration and hair. However, Rashi implies that they were part of a split egg, or, identical twins. The

Ibn Ezra believed that they shared one placenta and sac, as does the Midrash that describes Esau’s hair scratching Jacob even in Rebecca’s uterus. Do these opinions not at least introduce the possibility that they were Siamese Twins? The verse describes Jacob’s hand grasping Esau’s heel. That would describe an unusually strong baby. The hand is unusual. Jacob’s name should not have been derived from “Eikev” or heel, but rather from hand. Unless, Jacob’s hand was connected to Esau’s heel!

Thanksgiving Sale: What’s For Sale?

What exactly did Jacob purchase from Esau with the lentil porridge? Rashi, 25:31, explains that Jacob was purchasing the First Born son’s right to serve God. This is based on a Midrash, (Bereishit Rabbah 63:18, Bamidbar Rabbah 4:6) which implies that Jacob was not permitted to offer sacrifices as long as he was not the first-born son. If that is true, is the right to offer sacrifices up for sale? (The Midrash Hagadol believes that such a sale was permitted before Sinai. The Rivash, in his Responsa #328, rejects the notion that the law was different before Sinai.) Plus, if only the first-born was permitted to make an offering, why did God accept Abel’s offering? The Chizkuni explains that Jacob witnessed his older brother committing serious crimes and felt that Esau did not deserve to make offerings to God. The Sefer Chasidim Hachadash (#1853) posits that the right of service was compensation for the first-born’s extra responsibilities in managing the family’s finances. Jacob was convinced that he would be the better financial manager and purchased that responsibility from his brother. The right of offerings passed to Jacob with his newly acquired responsibilities. Others believe that Jacob purchased Esau’s grave in the family plot in the Cave of Machpeilah. The Talmud insists that Jacob purchased the plot when he confronted Esau when returning from Laban’s home.

The Leniency of Being Stringent:

“Those who slaughter people shall kiss the calves.” (Hosea 13:2) The Ibn Ezra explains this verse as describing a twisted world in which someone would kill a human but would show mercy to an animal. This is reminiscent of Esau, who says: “May the days of mourning for my father draw near, then I will kill my brother Jacob.” (Genesis 27:41) Esau did not want to upset his father, but he was willing to murder his brother. He “cared” for his father’s feelings, yet prays that his father die soon so that Esau could murder Jacob without worrying about the effect on Isaac. The Talmud tells a story of a Kohain, a Temple priest, who was more concerned with the purity of the knife protruding from his dying son, than he was with the fact that he son was just killed. (TBYoma 23a) How can we know when we have confused our priorities? How can we balance maintaining standards with our obligation to protect the dignity of a human being? See Proverbs 21:30. Does this have any application to the controversy associated with the allegations against Agriprocessors in Iowa?


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