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Have You but One Blessing?

11/23/2022 10:56:44 AM

Nov23

It is homiletically convenient that weekend of Thanksgiving almost always coincides with one of the Shabbatot when we read the saga of Jacob and Esau. The portions provide great fodder for sermonizing, with the drama of family conflict and its resolution, the power of shared meals to create relationships, and the travail of journeying. However, the story’s core is about the nature of blessings and thanks. What does it really mean to experience gratitude?

Esau, as the oldest, is entitled to the birthright, but he scorns it with bluster: “I am going to die of hunger- what use have I of a birthright!” Later, Isaac gives Jacob the greater blessing, and then informs Esau that he cannot match it. Esau lets loose a great and bitter cry: “Have you but one blessing?”

The narrative serves as a stark reminder that, like Esau we often do not appreciate the blessings that we have been offered. We can become totally consumed by a particular desire of the moment. We are not distracted by the hunger for an actual bowl of soup as Esau was, but we are diverted for the yearning some other trinket or ephemeral goal. In that moment, we lose sight of the greater blessings that are available to us: connection to community, having a place in a family, health and wellness, life itself. 

The story also reminds us that there is an aspect of human nature that looks look at the blessings we and others receive as a zero-sum game. Like Isaac, we may assume that if a blessing settles on one person, it is not available to another. Like Esau, we may be so jealous of the good fortune offered to another that we bemoan the blessings that are before us. In fact, our blessings are no less because another person has more.

I hope that you have the opportunity to celebrate this Thanksgiving with those who are dear to you. Even more so, I hope that in the spirit of parashat Toledot, we are all able to experience real gratitude. May we all truly appreciate that we have received far more than one blessing, and understand that the blessings of others do not take away from our own good fortune.

Fri, December 2 2022 8 Kislev 5783