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November 16, 1990 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-11-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I TORAH PORTION

The Study Of Torah
Must Be Our Priority

STUART SNIDER

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Special to The Jewish News

T

he Midrash tells us
ma'aseh avot siman la-
banim, that the ac-
tivities of the Patriarchs
foreshadow the events of
future generations, and that
by carefully examining their
deeds we can derive lessons
applicable to our time.
This week's sedra, Toledot,
introduces Isaac's twin sons,
Jacob and Esau, the former,
the studious scholar, the lat-
ter, the crude hunter.
Both boys had the same up-
bringing, the Midrash inform-
ing us that they each attend-
ed religious school until age
13. Jewish education, how-
ever, was not a priority with
Esau, who out of hand re-
jected it at his first opportuni-
ty, while his brother con-
tinued in his studies.
The story is told of Jacob
one day sitting in his tent
learning the Talmud. He was
at page 77a of Bava Kama —
one of the volumes concern-
ing matters of civil law —
when Esau came in from the
hunt. Esau approached his
brother to see what he was
studying. As Esau scanned
the page, he quickly saw that
it contained only two short
lines of the actual Talmudic
text, the rest of the page be-
ing completely filled, in
small, continuous type, by the
largest commentary of
Tosafot that he had ever seen.
When Jacob offered to explain
the subject matter to his
brother, Esau recoiled and ex-
claimed: "You can have the
Tosafot, the Talmud, as well
as your olam haba (world to
come)."
This apocryphal story (in-
deed, the authors of the
Tosafot commentary would
not live until the 12th cen-
tury, and the Talmud itself
would not be printed with its
standardized pagination until
the year 1520) comes to
characterize Esau. It
characterizes as well the ele-
ment of the Jewish people
that he has symbolically
come to embody.
Esau, as we know, was lost
to the Jewish people. His
13-odd years of rudimentary
Jewish training did not suf-
fice him to stave off the in-
trigues of the non-Jewish
world, to which he, unfor-
tunately, readily succumbed.
His rejection of the teachings

Stuart Snider, an attorney,
resides in Southfield.

of his brother, his father Isaac,
and grandfather Abraham set
him adrift from these
founders of the Jewish nation.
One can understand,
perhaps, Esau's unwill-
ingness to enter into the
sophisticated dialects the
Tosafot presented. But his
refusal even to consider the
Talmud, as representative of
fundamental, basic Jewish
knowledge, left him with
nothing — with no Jewish
present and with no olam
haba, no Jewish future.
The parallels to be drawn to
our own time from Esau's
conduct readily appear.
Jewish society's very ex-
istence today is threatened by
the internal threats of

Toledot:
Genesis 25:19-28:9,
Samuel I 20:18-42.

assimilation, intermarriage,
apathy and disassociation.
The contributing factors are
complex; yet foremost among
them is a lack of knowledge
of Jewish law, lore, morals,
ritual and custom.
Rather than folowing
Esau's example, the ramifica-
tions of which are so clear in
our day, we must instead use
Jacob as our model. Accor-
ding to one opinion in the
Talmud, Jacob never died.
This symbolic immortality of
the Jewish people, however,
can only come about if the
traditions of Jacob are main-
tained. Whether it be through
the classes and lectures of-
fered on all levels and at all
times by the synagogues and
other community institu-
tions, or whether it be
through personal study, the
Jewish people's continued ex-
istence will obtain only if the
"people of the Book" know
the Book.
As the Mishna states:
v'talmud torah k'neged
kulam, Jewish education, the
study of the Torah, must be
our priority. ❑

mi SYNAGOGUES f•—•

Livonia Group
Plans Sale

The Livonia Jewish Con-
gregation will host a flea
market and bake sale 10 a.m.-
4 p.m. Nov. 18 at the
synagogue. For information,
please call the synagogue
477-8974.

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