Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

Eisav’s Stew and Yaakov’s Values

Fatigued from his day out in the field, Eisav returns home. To his delight, he discovers his brother Yaakov stirring a pot of lentil stew. Eisav, tired and hungry, asks for some of the soup but does so in a strange way: “give to me of this red thing” (Genesis 25:30), describing it by its color, not its contents. It seems unlikely that Eisav had never seen lentils before, or had mixed up this stew with some other legume. But in his moment of fatigue, all he could see before him was the external color of the dish, unable to identify its substance.

This peculiar, quaint interaction over a bowl of stew is what leads to Yaakov purchasing the birthright from his elder brother. He sees how fixated Eisav is on the externalities of the present, losing sight of the deeper contents of the dish. One needs to have lost any sense of  depth and value to see only color and nothing of substance. At that moment, Yaakov understood that someone else needs to take on the mantle of the familial legacy, offering the cherished albeit evanescent bowl of soup for the often challenging but immortal birthright. 

It is so easy to be superficially seduced by the raw images shown by the international media of what is happening in Gaza, to be blinded by the same color red that can be seen in so many of the photos. Around the world, we are witness to so many people who fail to see context, history and narrative, who fixate on the raw externals and fail to acknowledge the ingredients that Hamas has poured into the current reality. Tragically, the civilians killed are collateral damage due to Hamas. Shooting on their own citizens trying to escape through safe passage zones, using their citizens as human shields, and subjugating the Gazan hospitals to be used as their military installations.

It is the IDF that continues to identify and combat the venomous ingredients that make up this conflict.  While Hamas hides out in a tunnel system larger than the New York City subway system, holding hundreds of hostages, celebrating their merciless massacre, and even robbing Gazans of crucial humanitarian resources, our Israeli men and women in uniform are taking the utmost care, in ways unimaginable to foreign militaries, to minimize civilian casualties – sending leaflets, calling individuals’ cell phones, permitting the entrance of aid, and pausing warfare to allow for non-combatants to leave. While Hamas keeps kidnapped babies in underground dungeons, Israel is doing its best to provide what their civilians require and deserve.

Yaakov, unlike Eisav, does not allow his stress and suffering to overshadow his values. Our soldiers are the children of Yaakov – cold and fatigued, but in the face of it all committed to the values for which the Jewish people, the chosen people, stand for.

Our foes, whose ravenous antisemitic hunger causes them to rip down pictures of our precious captive children, parents, and grandparents in cities all over the world, attempt to challenge our resolve and our commitment. But we will continue to insist that both our cause and our methods are just. We will respond to them through our heroic children and grandchildren, who wear the holy garments of the IDF. We face this challenging moment with moral clarity, a determination to eradicate Hamas, and a prayer for an end to bloodshed.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 30 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.