Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Whoever brings children into the world “gives up” from his free time. Whoever keeps Shabbat “loses” one-seventh of the time he can earn (and spend) money. Whoever learns Torah “wastes” time that could be spent learning a practical profession. Opposite this utilitarian perspective, there is a verse in this week’s Torah portion that expresses a completely different philosophy of life. Esav asks Yaakov to join him, to walk together with him. Yaakov refuses, explaining himself in these words: “And I will move at my own slow pace, according to the pace of the work that is before me and according to the pace of the children.” It’s as if Yaakov is saying: That’s okay, Esav, run ahead. I am also moving along, but my tempo is different. I will go forward, too, but at my own slower pace. Why? Because of the work I must do (for the commentators, this means keeping Shabbat, holidays, mitzvot and learning Torah) and because of the obligations to my children (that is, having an orderly household and happy marriage and educating my children properly). I have values that are not driven by money or convenience, Yaakov explains. I invest time in matters that appear to delay my personal development while, in the end, they are actually more important than anything else. For thousands of years, Yaakov has been looking at Esav and how his sparkling and promising ideologies suddenly appeared and moved forward with breakneck speed, but Yaakov — Am Yisrael — was not carried away by any of them. Yaakov has moved along at a different pace, watching as Esav’s ideologies have fallen by the wayside. Meanwhile, Yaakov keeps advancing, slowly but surely. Yaakov does not waste time. He just utilizes it differently.