- Written by Rabbi Dovid Sipper
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World terrorists and underworld kingpins, certainly have a lot in common. Take the challenges they share in acquiring decent life insurance policies, their bizarre friendships with Swiss bankers, and the proclivity for soviet produced artillery. But more than anything their stone hearted brutality, fanatical drive towards domination and exceptionally talented organizational skills earn them justified and descriptive nicknames. The Sicilian mafia boss, Salvatore Riina, for example, was known by fellow mobsters as “The beast” due to his violent outbursts and the chief bomb-maker of the Hamas terrorist group Yahya Ayyash, was nicknamed “the engineer”. Although airline hijackings, suicide bombings and booby trapped vehicles maybe a relatively modern phenomenon, the concept of the hoodlum with a pet-name is by no means novel. In fact, even in biblical times we find in this weeks parsha, how Eisov (Esau) the feared local mobster of the time very innocently earned himself an extremely strange epithet that stuck forever .
No two brothers could have been as different as Yackov and Eisov. Whilst Yackov was studious, honest and pious, Eisov was violent, corrupt and irreverent. In the “birthright sale affair”, we find the Torah goes into great detail in order to emphasize the extent of their dissimilarity. On the day Avraham died, Yackov was preparing the traditional mourner’s meal for Yitschak. “Yackov simmered a stew and Eisov came from the field and was exhausted. Eisov said to Yackov, “Pour into me, now, some of the very red stuff for I am exhausted.’’ He therefore called his name Edom (Red). (Bereishis 25:29-30) The Torah then relates how Eisav eagerly relinquished his first born rights to Yackov in exchange for this little treat and got up and left with no regrets. Although on the surface we find a disturbing callousness towards spirituality on the part of Eisav, his truly corrupt nature is only clearly apparent when we investigate what he was exhausted about. Rashi explains from a Midrash that his fatigue was caused by his previous occupation…murder! This whole story is truly puzzling! Firstly; if the Torah wished that we understand the true nature of Eisov, would it not have been more appropriate to focus on his murderous tendencies rather than his more trivial callousness towards spirituality connected to firstborn rights? Secondly, considering his unusually evil nature, would not a name describing his horrendous acts be a more appropriate nickname than the color of soup?
I believe that the Torah here rather than describe the actions of Eisov decided to focus on the roots of his wickedness. We are taught here that the foundation of evil is based on allowing desire and lust to totally blur logic and short circuit the intellect. We are taught that the extent to which the drive to feed self indulgence becomes of primary importance, the greater is the disability to ascertain what the consequences of this negative effect may be. To the wicked his illicit temptations are valued by him to such an extent that “mere details” such as other people’s money, lives or relationships are at best ignored, but usually trampled upon in the most violent ways in a blind fit of hungry insanity. Eisov came in exhausted and hungry, he needed food right now, details of how he would get this “red-stuff” was viewed as a nuisance to be swept deep under the carpet of common sense and logical conclusion. When Eisov the glutton of world’s pleasures saw red, thoughts of spiritual gains and national prestige meant little more to him, than traffic means to the toddler who sees his colorful ball between the wheels of oncoming traffic. True Eisov’s life evolved around murder, incest and corruption, but here the Torah taught us his world outlook, the name that defined him, was; if you’re hungry for the soup, forget about the price. True Edom ideology!
Thankfully as Jews the offspring of Yackov, our every move towards enjoying this wonderful world is filled with details in order to help us focus on the price rather than the soup. Take the myriad of halachot based on merely starting the meal on bread and it is no small surprise that we have earned our own nickname too…the chosen nation!
Rabbi Sipper is a close friend of ShortVort.com. Further divrei Torah from the Rov can be found on his yeshiva's website at www.ohravraham.com