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Stop, Think, and Choose

11/19/2020 09:44:33 AM


There is a short joke about a man whose only plan is to pick up a pair of eyeglasses. After that, he’ll see what happens.

It is tempting to approach life with a “spur of the moment” attitude. Why plan ahead when there are so many contingencies? It is hard work to contemplate what is in our best interests, especially when we might never know for sure if indeed we chose the best path forward. Thus, we take a page out of the “wing it” playbook and just fly by the seat of our pants and make things up as we go along. However, just because it is easier to act and then later see where the dust settles, it isn’t always the best policy.

In Parshat Toldot, Esau returns from his hunting famished. Enticed by the savory smelling lentils that his twin brother Jacob is cooking, Esau demands a portion of nourishment. Seeing his brother’s desire, Jacob proposes a steep price for a portion of stew. “First sell me your birthright” (Genesis 25:31), the younger brother asks, to which the older twin readily agrees for he can’t see past his own starvation. Only once he is satiated and moves on from the moment – only once the dust settles – does Esau recognize his shortsightedness and thus we are told that he “spurned the birthright” (Genesis 25:34).

This story comes at a time as we are finalizing plans for our own holiday feasts. As the country begins to think about Thanksgiving, we find ourselves guided by our famished souls, seeking the comfort of good food and company. It is tempting to decide that we have been out on the hunt long enough, and thus a good idea to refuel ourselves with the familiarity of the secular holiday observance. But what risks are associated with this gathering, as it comes during a time when the pandemic is on a sharp uptick? What might be the things that we might come to regret if we were to take a step back and look at the larger picture? Our holiday plans are obviously a decision that is filled with idiosyncrasies of family dynamics that would be impossible to apply blanket advice to. Yet, we would be wise to see further than our nose, and make sure that we are willing to make the sacrifices and investments in our plans so that we can feel that we have chosen the most prudent and best path forward.

Shabbat Shalom

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