Sources of our blessing as infinite as the Divine

Genesis 25:19-28:9

Malachi 1:1-2:7

by Rabbi Amy Eilberg

For a change, consider the story from Esau's perspective.

Of course, this is hard to do; we are so accustomed to thinking of Esau as the bad guy. But seeing the story through his eyes, we may learn something new.

Remember, this is Esau, whose father had watched his own father raise a knife to his neck. This Esau lived in a deeply conflicted family, in which his father favored him, while his mother favored his brother Jacob. And of course, Esau had already experienced Jacob's first betrayal, the theft of his birthright.

Now, Isaac asks Esau to prepare a favorite meal of game. Esau jumps to please his father, to display his prowess as a hunter, to bring his father something irresistible, in exchange for the soul-blessing that Isaac has promised (Gen. 27:4). The text gives us a vivid description of Esau's reaction when he returns to his father's bedside, only to learn that Jacob had betrayed him again.

Isaac begins to tremble violently when he recognizes Jacob's deception. Isaac cries out, "Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me?

Moreover, I ate of it before you came, and I blessed him; now he must remain blessed!" Esau, hearing his father's words, and sensing his panic, bursts into wild sobbing, saying, "Bless me too, Father!" Isaac responds that no, Isaac has taken his blessing.

Esau responds, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?" Isaac, convinced that he has, in fact, given his only blessing to Jacob, replies in desperation, "What, then, can I still do for you, my son?" Esau cries out again, "Have you but one blessing, Father? Bless me too, Father!" (Gen. 27:33-38).

One can hardly imagine a more dramatic and intensely painful scene. One can readily see Esau's anguish and feel his desperation.

It is perhaps the dramatic low point of the narrative when Isaac confirms Esau's worst fear, that Isaac has but one blessing to give. Once the blessing has been spoken (to the wrong son), this father is convinced he has nothing left to give.

It is not hard to find ourselves in Esau's agonizing story. How often in our lives have we found ourselves convinced that there was only one blessing available? Perhaps we, too, suffered as we watched our sibling receive the only love available.

Perhaps we have been denied an opportunity, convinced that this was our last chance to thrive.

How often do we, like the misguided Isaac and the desperate Esau, find ourselves convinced that blessing is scarce: There is only one, and once it has been given, there is nothing left.

Many of us live our lives in the midst of this sort of philosophy of scarcity. Not enough blessing. Not enough time. Not enough love. Not enough opportunity. This conviction, moving inside us, can create realities of its own. If we are certain that another's gain means our loss, we may quit trying, or quit hoping, or cultivate resentment rather than a sense of possibility.

Imagine Isaac giving Esau a very different response. What if Isaac had responded to his son's desperate cry with love and faith? What if Isaac had responded to Esau that he, too, was beloved, that he, too, would become a father of great peoples, that there was plenty of love and blessing to go around, that life was full of goodness and possibility? How different might Esau's life have been if blessed by this message; how differently might his descendants have carried themselves in the world.

What would it take to remind ourselves that the sources of blessing in our world are as infinite as their Source? What if we trained ourselves, and taught our children, to expect goodness to flow steadily through our lives? From this frame of mind, how much more goodness might we create?

May this parashah nurture our belief in the abundance of blessing in our lives, and may we share this belief with others in a thousand ways.