These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

My ‘Third Story Midrash’

Posted on December 26, 2013 by Dita Ribner Cooper

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DitCoopDaniel Roth presented our ‘Judaism and Conflict Resolution’ class for Jewish Educators with this assignment, and below is the ‘Third Story’ that I wrote about Jacob and Esav:


j4c0bAs I sit here and write this journal entry, I cannot believe that I have acquired the birthright of my family. It started today when, like every day, I was in my tent. I decided to make a nezid adashim for lunch and maybe even bring some to my parents. And then Esau, filthy from the field, barged into my tent like the hunter that he is and demanded that I give him the soup. Initially I thought to myself, “There’s plenty of food, why not?” And then I saw it, blood the color of my red soup, the color of his mess of hair. I never have liked to wonder about what else Esav does when he’s “out in the fields.” I’d like to believe that he really is just hunting animals to bring back for my father, but something in that moment led me to wonder if animals were the only creatures he was hunting.

I was suddenly, and unshakably seized by disgust. Who knows what poor innocent girl he attacked? What unsuspecting person he might have murdered? (BR/Rashi). How could I, in good conscious, sustain this person who had the ability to hurt so many? But he persisted and begged me for my soup, telling me he would “die” if he didn’t have any. He threatened me, and demanded that I pour the soup forcibly into his mouth like a thirsty camel. (BR/Rashi). I was fearful of him, fearful of what he could do to me if he had spent this morning wreaking havoc on others’ lives.

So I made a choice, I would give him the soup on the condition that he would give me his birthright. I knew, in that moment, that I would not be able to change Esav’s ways, but I could limit his opportunities. I could take away the blessing of being the eldest, of having more power and more possessions to prevent him from causing more evil in this world (Philo). I could ensure that someone of such low moral character, such wickedness, could never be the forefather of those who would serve in God’s holy temple (BR/Rashi). I did not want the birthright for myself, I wanted it to simply be taken away from him. And so I have the birthright. I don’t know what I’ll do about it, or what will become of me in the end, but at least I have saved some people from the power and terror that is my twin brother. I will continue to do whatever it takes to make sure he’ll never take back his place.


3s4uEver since I was very little, I’ve felt misunderstood. My abilities to be resourceful in the wilderness have been viewed by my brother and mother as wild and my abilities to be a good hunter and provide food for my family have been judged as barbaric. To me, hunting is a necessity of life. If we want to eat, we need to hunt. So why do I feel so disapproved of? On any given day, I will come back from the fields, naturally sweaty and dirty from my day’s work, and they’ll just stare at me as if I too am some sort of animal carcass like the one I grasp in my hand. My father is the only one who seems to see it my way, the only one who is remotely grateful for my dedication to this family. I wish my brother and mother could see it too.

Today started off like every other day. I knew my father would be hungry for some meat and so I took my bow and arrows and set off for the field. For whatever reason, though, the game was scarce, and it took me from sunrise to noon to catch my father’s lunch. I ran and ran for hours, shooting my arrows, doing my best. As I started on my way home, my meager game in hand, I smelled something amazing. Food, a lentil stew maybe, and I realized how food deprived and exhausted I was from the morning. I approached Jacob’s tent to see if what I smelled was a reality and there he was, stirring a huge pot of lentil stew over the fire. I knew how I seemed, dirty, sweaty, haggard after hours hunting in the field. But I was so hungry and felt like I was going to pass out. “Please, Jacob, can I have some of that? I feel like I’m going to die!” And then Jacob sad something I never expected him to say. With a sly smile on his face, he threatened me, and told me that he would only give me the soup if I gave him my birthright. My birthright? The only good thing I could claim from my family? How could I do that? But my head started to spin and I was so overcome by exhaustion and nausea that I couldn’t think straight anymore. I said whatever came to my mind first, and in a moment of human weakness, let my brother take everything away from me.

Now, I nearly have nothing. I have a brother who wants nothing more but to take advantage of me, and mother who loves only one of her sons. Only my father loves and understands me. But he will never understand the pain I feel right now as my own brother ripped my future away from me today.