Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Toldos – Genesis 25:19-28:9
What do you really want from life? You may think you know the answer but read on because you don’t. Whether you call it your mission or purpose (hint, they’re not the same) or just what you want, everything you are and do comes from one decision. The problem is you’ve probably not ever consciously thought about it. Parshas Toldos explains your two choices:
“…two nations are in your womb and two regimes from your insides will be separated….” (Bereshis/Genesis 25:23).
At the beginning of this Sabbath’s parsha Jacob and Esau are born. Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a pot of lentil stew. Then a famine forces Isaac to move to Gerar where he disputes with the Philistines and makes a treaty with Abimelech. Esau marries two Hittite women. Next, as Isaac lays dying, Rebecca conspires to get the blessing of the firstborn for Jacob leading to Esau hating his brother. Isaac admonishes Jacob not to marry a Canaanite, after which he flees to Bethuel’s house. Esau marries a third wife. Who needs Dynasty?
Kingdom and World
Virtually from the moment of conception Esau and Jacob fought. Rebecca feels the dispute in her womb. When she asks G-d what’s going on, He answers with the above line. This was no every day in utero sibling rivalry.
The Midrash describes Esau’s nation as a kingdom and Jacob’s as a world. The differences are stark. Kingdoms seek conquest and plunder, epitomized by the Roman Empire, the descendants of Esau. Rome’s armies were invincible, her pleasures the bloodthirsty entertainments of the coliseum.
In contrast, there are two worlds: this world and the World to Come. While the essence of this world is physical, it cannot exist without its spiritual dimension. The World to Come is purely spiritual. Plunder has no meaning. You need only conquer the lesser aspects of your nature.
Your Most Basic Choice
While it doesn’t feel like babies kicking your insides, the battle between desire for kingdom and world rages in you. Each time you speak or act, you’re choosing which one you want. If you’re tired or upset and yell, make demands, or try to control people, you’re building a kingdom. You may conquer your family members. They’ll put up with a lot. You might be able to dominate friends and co-workers, at least for a while.
When love motivates your words and actions, you’re building a world. People may not know why, but they want to be around you. Your professional knowledge becomes precious to them. Family, friends, and colleagues implicitly trust your counsel on personal matters.
Notice that in both cases people will listen to you. The difference is why. Rome had one goal: To be feared. Subjects dread their monarch. Such is the nature of kingdoms.
When you decide to build a world you choose pursuit of wisdom over coercion and self-control over displays of temper. You recognize conflict must be minimized and handled to create growth.
It seems like the most important choices you’ll make are whether to be an employee or business owner, marry, or have children. Before all of these and so many more decisions comes the most vital of all: will you build a kingdom or a world?
Question – What is one of your criteria for making this choice? Please leave a comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!
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