Little time left

The sages say, “When a mitzvah comes to your hand, don’t let it get stale” (M’chilta Bo).

Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple

Judaism Clock, time
Clock, time


The sidra tells the sad story of Isaac being old and blind and not knowing when his death would come.

The commentator Radak thinks that Isaac’s realisation that his days were numbered was more than the usual fear of dying. Isaac had things left to do and he wasn’t certain that he had the time to do them.

What was it that he so much wished to do?

To give Esau, his favourite son, a last blessing.

Another commentator, Chiz’kuni, has a variation on this view. He says that Isaac realised that Esau had sold Jacob his birthright; though the father possibly admitted that Esau had acted impetuously and irresponsibly, he was anxious to give Esau a gift that would not end up in Jacob’s hands.

Without getting into family dynamics, we see that Isaac is an example of the person who doesn’t get round to doing things promptly.

The sages say, “When a mitzvah comes to your hand, don’t let it get stale” (M’chilta Bo).


Why did Esau want Jacob’s soup?

What attracted him was "ha-adom ha-adom hazeh", "this red stuff".

It couldn’t have been the taste that interested him because he hadn’t yet tasted a morsel. Maybe it was the aroma, but of that we can’t be certain. He had a ruddy complexion, but that probably had no connection with the food.

The real attraction must have been the colour of the soup, and indeed history gave him the nickname of "Adom", "Red" (Rashbam).

What’s so special about the colour red? It denotes blood.

Esau loved gory things. He was a gory man. Shedding blood gave him a feeling of excitement.

The prophet Habbakuk said, "Woe to him that builds a town through blood" (2:12). We know from elsewhere in the Torah that blood symbolises life (Deut. 12:23).

Esau was a bloodthirsty man. Taking life gave him his kicks. Jacob on the other hand was a peace-loving student who enjoyed cooking.

The fact that he chose to make red soup was simply because of the availability of red lentils. He didn’t give a moment’s thought to the symbolism of blood.


Readers and commentators have long been puzzled about the opening words of the parashah: "This is the history of Isaac the son of Abraham – Abraham begat Isaac" (Gen. 25:19).

If Isaac was the son of Abraham, it follows that Abraham begat Isaac. Why do we need to be told what is obvious?

Rashi’s explanation, following, as usual, the more ancient interpreters, is that some of that generation suspected that Abraham was not really the father, so God gave father and son similar facial features to prevent any misunderstanding.

A Chassidic homily quotes the rabbinic view that the history of righteous people is their record of good deeds, which may imply that the good deeds you do must be counted amongst your progeny.

Immortality comes not only through your biological descendants, but also through what you do for the world, for God, for other people.

In a metaphorical sense, your good deeds look like you.