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    Why did he sell the birthright? – Tol’dot

    Esau sells his birthright for a mess of pottage, by James Tissot c.1896

    Every year when we read this sidra, we wonder why Esau was so nonchalant about parting with his birthright.

    “You want my birthright?” he more or less says to his brother. “It’s useless to me. What can I do with a birthright when I’m so hungry and would rather have a good bowl of soup than a mere title?”

    Other families, other generations, other places, placed high value on the status of b’chor, but not Esau. Was it that Esau was nothing more than a rough, primitive creature whose priorities were limited to today without thought of the morrow?

    The answer that Ibn Ezra gives is rather different. In most cases the birthright brought property rights with it, but, says Ibn Ezra, this was not so with Esau.

    Why? Because Isaac, despite a solid inheritance from his father, could not manage money and in old age he was reduced to penury. He had hardly anything to give his older son, and Esau knew it.

    “What am I going to get?” Esau asked himself. “A title but nothing else. Jacob wants the title, does he? He’s welcome. It’s an empty privilege. I’d rather have a bowl of soup.”

    Many a sermon could be preached about the birthright story. Probably most would remark that having a birthright was a key to destiny. Jacob understood better than Esau that it isn’t your estates that really matter, but your spiritual values.

    Parents can give their children dignity even if they have no houses, no blocks of flats, no rolls of money to leave them.

    Jacob certainly gave the Children of Israel dignity and destiny… and it was all thanks to a bowl of soup!

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