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"TODAY" AND THE CAREER PERSONFrom my sefer Trust Me!
And Eisav said to Ya'akov, "Pour some of that red, red stuff down my throat, for I am exhausted." Therefore his name is called "Edom" [a word that resembles adom - "red"]. And Ya'akov said, "Sell me, as this day, your birthright." (Bereishis 25:30-31)
Adapted from Lev Eliyahu by R. Eliyahu Lopian as cited by the Yalkut Lekach Tov, vol. 1, p. 136.
When Eisav demanded that Ya'akov give him the pot of lentil soup that he was preparing for his father, Ya'akov responded, "Sell me, as this day [????], your birthright" (Bereishis 25:30-31).
Eisav was the older of the two brothers, and as such, he was due to inherit the spiritual gifts that were passed down from Avraham to Yitzchak. It was these rights that Ya'akov asked Eisav to sell him "chayom" ("as this day").
The Seforno is concerned about the connection between the soup that was red and the appellation subsequently applied to Eisav. Was he called "Edom" - "the red one" - just because he ate some red stew? Morover, the term "as this day" is quite unusual. Why did the Torah employ this peculiar phrase? The Seforno gives one answer that addresses both these questions, and in doing so, provides us with a timeless message.
When Ya'akov saw how preoccupied his older brother was with mundane pursuits (to the extent that he could only identify a pot of soup by its color) he knew that Eisav had no need for the bechorah (the status of the firstborn).
If a person gets totally immersed in work and becomes so famished that - unlike any normal human being - he can only identify a pot of food by calling it "red stuff," it shows that all he cares about is "today." He is so preoccupied with his activities that he can't even recognize a bowl of soup! And if he is so thoroughly involved in the work of "today," he has no need or interest in serving the Almighty, which is the primary duty of the firstborn.
This, then, is what Ya'akov meant: "If 'today' (chayom) is so important to you, then you have no right to the bechorah. You are unable to serve Hashem in the way He has in mind."
With this explanation, the Seforno reveals the key to understanding - and thereby hopefully avoiding - a mistake that all too many people make. Mankind was cursed with the need to seek a livelihood. Often, however, when a person enters the workplace, his mind becomes gripped by a terrible distortion. Instead of seeing his occupation as a curse, he views it as a blessing, and focuses all of his energies on "making a living." He becomes so engrossed with his business endeavors that he has no time to think about life's real purpose, and whenever anyone tries to broach the subject, he immediately replies, "I have no choice, my work won't let me." This is in stark contrast to his attitude toward spiritual pursuits. Suddenly he becomes tremendously strong in his faith and exerts no effort whatsoever, piously proclaiming, "Hashem will help" - whether the subject is his children's education or his "sympathetic" refusal to give to a charitable cause. Such a person keeps on descending spiritually, until he eventually sinks into a lifestyle that is antithetical to the Torah, thinking all the time he is a perfect tzaddik.
R. Yissocher Frand, in one of his lectures ("Project Genesis"), applied R. Eliyahu Lopian's idea to modern society. There is a basic dichotomy between the spiritual and the temporal. A person can get so involved in his career that nothing else matters besides "Today." When becoming "a partner in the firm" becomes the top priority, or when being successful in one's profession is all that matters, one only has "Today." Family loses its importance, spirituality loses its significance, and the connections with everything that is of lasting value are severed. A life of "Today" precludes a life of holiness.
Eisav was the ultimate "career person," the ultimate "workaholic." He came back from his work so consumed and obsessed that he could not even recognize a bowl of soup. Ya'akov recognized that Eisav had no connection to the realm of spirituality and no need for the bechorah.
A Tale of a Subaru
He skillfully parked the old Subaru between two sizable garbage wheel bins and, still wrestling with the stiff handle that had made trouble closing the car's window ever since the Lebanon War, he stared at a luxurious Volvo gliding past. He made up his mind. The time had come.
For 24 years he had toiled hard to build up his economic status, shirking no task. Many still remember how he energetically washed the stairwells of apartment buildings in the middle of the night with a wide-brimmed hat hiding his face. With the help of connections at that job, he developed his skills and began doing small repairs. Here a door, there a window, a blocked up sink or a broken tile and within a few years he was able to employ two strong workers - Jibril and Chalil.
Many sukkah balconies owe their existence to him and his skillful hands transformed hundreds of kitchens. Over the years he exchanged the family's cramped tenement for a spacious apartment. He had everything to be thankful for: a big Business, a luxurious home, a fine family, ample capital, good health and Hashem's constant kindness. Over the years his bank account accrued a considerable amount which could be called a firm economic basis. His old dream had materialized.
He passed a callused hand over the cracked plastic of the steering 'wheel, caressed the gear rod that lost its head in a collision with a heavy sink, lovingly looked at the worn seats and knew that the time had come. He remained seated, his Imagination hovering on wings of the future. He foresaw a sleek, silver colored car, equipped with digital switches at his command and, of course, electric windows. His car would glide silently, absorbing any bumps in the road, and he would park it in a special driveway built by Jibril and Chalil. He would get out, press the remote control, and tinted windows would rise as the luxurious vehicle locked. A quiet hum, accompanied by a quick flash of ail the car's lights, would signal that the operation was accomplished.
A bothersome beep suddenly roused him from his dreams and he realized that he ×was pressing the horn as though it were a remote control.
He never made a considerable decision without consulting his faithful wife. With sparkling eyes he described the car of his dreams, dazzling on the outside and plushy inside: three years of guaranteed reliability and no need to lean over the motor every so often in a. desperate attempt to rouse it to life. Ah - he leaned back in his armchair and stared at his cracked fingers that toiled so hard. The time had come. But she, to his surprise, refused. "Absolutely not. It doesn't come into question." She understood the need to get a new, efficient car but was not prepared to buy a luxury vehicle, the object of her husband's dreams. Each of them insisted and they finally decided to present their argument to a Torah authority. The couple went in the aged Subaru and soon arrived at the home of an eminent Taimid Chacham.
Eventually the door of the rabbi's room opened and an obviously troubled couple stepped out. "Next!" announced someone and our couple entered. The husband shook the rabbi's hand vigorously, sat down and opened his heart. ×'×Baruch Hashem", he weighed his words, "I have a big business, plenty of money and..." Seeing his hesitation, the rabbi urged him: "Yes, yes, go on."
"I also have a. luxurious home..." His words again stuck in his throat. His glance caught the old Îwalls of the rabbi's house, the metal bookshelves that had seen his beard when it was still black, the old-fashioned phone and the wooden benches that resembled shelves in a grocery.
"Go on, go on.''
"Well, I want to buy an expensive car, more efficient than the one I have."
"Use It in good health", smiled the rabbi, "and travel on good journeys...'' The rabbi sunk his glance into the Gemara that he perused between visitors but noticed that the couple were not ready to leave. "Go on, go on,"
"ER - my wife opposes the idea."
"I'm afraid of ayin horah", she said, "and that people could be jealous of us because of our success."
"I'm very afraid."
The rabbi removed his spectacles, drew near to the husband, looked into his eyes and asked, "Have you finished Shas "?
"Can I examine you in Shas?"
The husband's eyes widened in astonishment. He already decided to check if he had come to the right address. "No, I haven't completed the Shas but what about..."
"Maybe you'll allow me to test you in one seder - Nezikin or Nashim - whatever you want."
"No! I never finished any seder but what about..."
"Maybe I can test you in a certain tractate you know by heart?"
"No, I don't know any whole tractate by heart but what about...?"
"Dear boy, can I test your knowledge of one chapter of any tractate?"
"That also not", the husband replied in wonder but his determined character didn't give up: "What about the car?" "Yes, we've come to the car. In my opinion, your wife doesn't have to worry about ayin horah. You haven't finished Shas, a whole seder you don't know, you don't know an entire tractate by heart, nor even one chapter! Who, then, could be jealous of you?"
The couple were struck dumb. They understood. With no further ado, they said their farewells and left the room.
A month later the couple returned to the rabbi, who greeted them graciously while they were obviously excited.
"I've come to be tested in the chapter of Eilu Metzios..." At that moment there was no one happier than the owner of the Subaru: For a long while he sat before the rabbi and, page by page, related the contents of the chapter.
Jibril and Chalil noticed that their employer was busy with a most urgent matter. In every free moment he would sit on the tool chest, take out a book and read the close print.
He understood the message well. Today he knows what a person should attend to and spreads his story so people should learn the lesson. "We live in this world", he says. "We can't ignore it but a smart person distinguishes between the important and the trifling, between the truth and imagination, between the contents and the shell around them and between the essence and mere appearances. Torah is the main objective and everyone should strive for it. All of us should aspire to its study and observation. Everything else is possible and permissible and only human but we mustn't forget the vital essential."
Shema Yisrael Torah Network