In this week’s Parsha, Toldot, we are told of Esav selling his birthright to Yakov in exchange for a bowl of beans. The Medrash says that on that day Esav also committed murder, denied G-d’s existence, denied the resurrection, and belittled the birthright. Why does the Torah only mention the belittlement of the birthright, if Esav also did all these other horrible things? Also, in this story Yakov seems to be a schemer. His brother comes in from the field, starving and tired, asking for food, and the first thing Yakov does is bargains with Esav in his moment of weakness?
The Rabbis answer both these questions: The Torah is not just a history book, it is an instruction manual for living. Knowing all the horrible things Esav did doesn’t teach us the way that we’re supposed to live. However, the Torah does tell us that the root of all the sins Esav committed was that he belittled his birthright, and therefore his history, his place in history, and his responsibility. Conversely, Yakov’s actions prove that he did understand and appreciate his role and responsibility, and acted like he had a part of G-d/royalty inside him. In stark contrast, Esav’s perspective that he will die anyway, and therefore his birthright was meaningless, shows his lack of understanding his intrinsic value and self worth, and repudiated the greatness and dignity within him.
There is nothing more important than understanding one’s worth and significance. We are all royalty, we are all destined for greatness, our behavior should reflect those higher moral expectations, and this positive reflection should be clear to our children. We can accomplish this by constantly reminding them of how special they are, in so many ways and for so many reasons.