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How much do you sleep?


Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (

Excuse the question, but how many hours did you sleep last night? Are you tired and weary? When we speak about this week's Torah portion of Toldot, we speak primarily about Ya'akov and Esav, about Esav's sale of his birthright as the firstborn son, and about the blessing of Yitzchak Avinu. But what brings Esav to give up his birthright to Ya'akov? It's a seemingly technical detail, yet full of meaning:
"Esav came in from the field and he was weary. He said to Ya'akov: 'Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down since I am weary.'''
Esav was weary and the word appears here twice. A weary person cannot concentrate or focus. Peace of mind is gone along with the ability to act prudently. Esav does not even manage to say "lentil stew," but blurts out "this red stuff" instead. In that state of mind, he is willing to give up his birthright, sell his leadership position as the firstborn, and forgo his holy potential -- all for the sake of a single tasty gulp of food.
Our commentators explain that this episode reflects an eternal dilemma: Should we choose the spiritual or the materialistic path in life, the birthright or the food, eternal reward or instant gratification?
When Amalek, a descendant of Esav, comes to attack the nation of Israel, this word appears once more: "When you were weary and faint, and he (Amalek) did not fear God." Weariness is likely to lead to moral weakness and decline until we are surrounded and attacked by those who have no faith. In contrast to this, wakefulness, vitality, and alertness are real and sustaining blessings. These blessings depend on sleep and restfulness, which are not only physically necessary, but essential to a spiritual life.


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