Toldos: How You Play the Hand


In the society we live in, there are many traits which people quantify and consider valuable. Entire industries are devoted to things like- how one looks, how intelligent one is, and so on. These kinds of attributes are easier to discern, but the question is: Are they truly valuable?

In a peculiar episode, Esav makes  a request of Yaakov upon returning from the field. He asks him to “pour me some red, red [stuff]” (Bereishis 25:29), referring to the now infamous lentil soup. The verse goes on to tell us that “therefore they called him Edom”, meaning “red”.

What is even stranger, is the fact that he could have been called “red” long beforehand. The verse already told us he was born with a unique red complexion (25:25)! Why wait until he makes this strange request of Yaakov?

The answer lies in a simple concept, yet one which is difficult to embrace. We are sent to this earth to do Gd’s work as best we can. We are judged not by how we are born- what we look like or how well our brain works. What is truly valuable is what we do with those attributes. One should not be rewarded -or criticized- for something they naturally inherit. Instead, what matters is what they do with those attributes.

It is true, Esav was red from birth, but by no consequence of his own decision. Only once he hastily makes a plea for “red stuff” does he earn his label of “Edom”. 

As the late Randy Pausch once said in his viral Last Lecture video: “It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”