by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"And he ate, and he drank, and he arose and he left; and Esav denigrated
the right of the first-born." [25:34]
According to the Medrash, the right of the first-born meant the ability to
lead in the service of G-d. Before the children of Aaron and the entire
tribe of Levi were designated, the service was led by the first-born. This
is what Esav sold away.
The Sefer [book] Sha'ar Bas Rabim analyzes what transpired. At the
beginning of this process, by which Esav sold his right of the first-born,
there was a clear opportunity to look at him in a favorable light. We could
say that he was extremely tired and hungry, and feared that he was near
death - and therefore he decided to agree to the deal which Yaakov was
offering. This interpretation would not lead us to believe that Esav
intended to denigrate the right of the first-born, or underestimate it's
But after eating and drinking, what should we have expected? Why, that Esav
would feel intense pain! That he would cry out, "I was forced to do it! And
I regret what I did! I regret the entire sale!"
What actually happened? "And he ate, and he drank, and he arose and he
left..." - he got up and left quietly, satisfied, as if nothing had
happened. Even more, it became clear that "Esav denigrated the right of the
first-born" - for the entire sale had not taken place because he was
hungry, but because he really didn't care. He thought the right of the
first-born had no value. He didn't care about proper service of G-d.
How do we rate, if we evaluate ourselves in this light? When we fail to
do the service of G-d, when we pass up a Mitzvah, how much do we regret it
I recall a classmate in college, basically a religious guy - but let's just
say that the laws of Loshon Hora, prohibited speech, weren't his particular
area of excellence. By his own admission, he was a terrible gossip - and he
would say in a joking voice, "I'm going to be punished for this."
There are two ways of looking at his situation. Looking at him, we should
say, "at least he felt some twinge of regret. Think of all the people who
fill their days with gossip, feeling they are doing nothing wrong!" He has
the soul of Yaakov, not Esav - at least he cares!
But to whatever extent we find this same trait within ourselves, our
reaction must be just the opposite. "If I really cared, I wouldn't joke
about it - I would stop!" At the very least, we must try to improve
ourselves, if we are serious about bringing ethics and holiness into our
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.