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Zoe Ashberg - Dvar Torah

My parsha, Toldot, comes from the book of Genesis, which means generation or history. In this weeks Torah portion, Isaac and Rebecca are preparing for the birth of their two sons, Essau and Jacob. Even in the womb, we see the sibling rivalry between the brothers that will last their entire lives. The competition continues during birth as the two boys vie to be born first and to secure the birth right. It is Essau who is born first and Jacob is born clutching his brother’s heel. This is how Jacob got his name, Jacob means heel. We also learn of how Essau comes back from the fields one day so famished that he can’t even think straight and in order to satisfy his immediate hunger, he agrees to sell his birthright to Jacob for some lentil soup and bread. In doing this, we can see that Esau may not really deserve or even value his birthright given that he is able to part with it so readily. These two main points, sibling rivalry and putting value into something we do or have, are what I’d like to speak about today.

Competition and rivalry among Siblings is normal and usually healthy in-so-far-as making us strive to do our best. But there can be a point when sibling rivalry can become destructive if taken too far. Once you have reached the stage where you are willing to cheat or deceive in order to become the victor, the results may ultimately be undesirable. On the one hand you may achieve what you were seeking but in the end, losing your loved ones as a result may not be worth it. We all have something special to offer to the world, so ideally we shouldn’t have to compete with any brother or sister to be the favourite. If you’re an only child, then obviously you are the favourite, so I’m not talking to you! So, a little rivalry and competition can be healthy as long as we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture of not losing oneself and ones family in the process.

The second point from my portion that I’d like to discuss is how we place value on what we do or what we have. Something isn’t necessarily valuable simply because someone says it is. We have to put our own value into what we do depending on how much we actually care about it. One of my mitzvah projects was helping animals by volunteering my time with a vet and helping with spaying/neutering and vaccinations. This had value to me because I love to help animals in need. This opportunity really meant a lot to me because of my aspiration to be a vet. It wasn’t something that I would have given up for just a bowl of soup, as Esau had done with his birthright.

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