Esav the hunter comes in from the field and desperately wants to eat what his brother Ya’akov is cooking. “Stuff me with that red red stuff,” he stutters. Ya’akov drives a hard bargain, though, and asks for Esav’s birthright in return. ” Esav replies, “Hinei anokhi holekh lamut–I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32).
What does Esav mean by “I am at the point of death?” Is this just “I’m so hungry I could die” hyperbole, or is there something more to it? And what does its meaning teach us about Esav?
In reading this passage to prepare for the Shabbat when we read Toldot and honor our veterans, another scene came to mind. It’s from the epic HBO miniseries Band of Brothers from 2001, that told the story of World War Two through the experiences of one company of the 506th Airborne. In this episode, one solider, Pvt. Blithe, is confronting his fear, a fear that leaves him temporarily blinded. In one scene, he addresses his fear with an officer, Lt. Speirs, who has a reputation for being ruthless. You can see this brief scene by clicking this link. The essence of the officer’s philosophy of war begins 1:15 into the clip.
Do you see similarities between Esav and Lt. Speirs? Why do you think Esav thought of himself as “already dead?”
On Shabbat morning, as we celebrate the courage of those who served the United States, the State of Israel, and other Allied nations, let’s take some time to unpack what Esav said and what it means.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise