In the beginning of Parshas Toldos the Torah tells us about Eisav selling his first-born rights to his
younger twin brother Yaakov. The Torah describes the scene; Yaakov is cooking a pot of stew and Eisav
comes in from the field completely exhausted. When Eisav asks for some stew to regain his strength,
Yaakov asks for the first-born rights in exchange for his stew. Eisav agrees and comments, “Look, I am
going to die, so of what use to me is a birthright?” (Bereishis, chapter 25, verse 32)
Rashi explains that Eisav meant much more by these words than he is simply going to starve. Eisav wasn’t thrilled with his birthright because it would require him to serve in the Beis HaMikdash. [Originally, serving in the Beis HaMikdash was the responsibility of the first-born, after the sin of the golden calf only the tribe of Levi
was fit to serve, they with the kohanim amongst them took the place of all the first-born.]
Serving in the Beis HaMikdash entails many prohibitions some of which come with heavy punishments for violations, including the death penalty. Rashi therefore explains Eisav’s words referring to these punishments,
“Look, I am going to die”- if I violate any of these commandments, “so of what use to me is a birthright”- I would rather not be the one responsible for serving in the Beis HaMikdash with all the dangers such responsibilities bring with them.
After the sale is completed, the Torah concludes chapter 25, “and Eisav spurned the birthright.”
I once heard a fascinating point in the name of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. Rav Moshe asked why the Torah
is so critical of Eisav’s choice. One could argue that Eisav was making a responsible choice, he felt that
serving in the Beis HaMikdash would be too much for him, and he therefore passed it on to his brother
Yaakov who was happy to do the job, why is Eisav recorded as having disgraced his birthright for all of
eternity for his cautious stance?
Rav Moshe explained that this question teaches us a powerful lesson about how we should approach Judaism.
In our physical pursuits we tend to be ambitious, some more than others, but we all want the best that
we can get. When buying a house or a new car we calculate what we can afford, and we look for the
very best within our price range. Why is it that when it comes to our spiritual pursuits we find ourselves
settling for second best?
This is an Eisav mentality! In our service of Hashem, our Torah study, our scrutiny in mitzvah observance we need to also be constantly looking for the best. We do need to proceed with caution, if we bite off more than we can chew we will lead ourselves down a path of frustration and disappointment. But we should never be complacent, we should always be itching for an upgrade, as we do in all other areas of life.
This is not only true for ourselves, but also for our children. Eisav didn’t deprive himself of the Avoda in
the Beis HaMikdash he deprived his children and all of his future generations of it. We need to be
careful not to limit our children’s spiritual potential according to what we are personally comfortable
A father once got up to speak at the Bris of one of his sons and his blessing to the new baby was
that he should be a B- Jew, he should be satisfied with life as a “pahuta yid” a simple Jew. This is an
Eisav mentality, we should never strive for mediocrity. Hashem should help us to always embrace the
mentality of our forefather Yaakov, and always strive to upgrade our Judaism for ourselves and our