Eisav, Yaakov, Marshmallows and Eternal Gratification in Parshas Toldos

They were born, two boys, twins, Yaakov and Eisav; but they had vastly different natures.  Yet, as you learn the Torah Portion of Toldos and you see with what nature Eisav was blessed, it seems to you, perhaps, that the cards were stacked against Eisav – he had this burning desire for physicality and strength.  However, we are taught Eisav and King David looked alike and had the same personalities.  Both were passionate men.  Ah, passion, it could be used two ways.  Eisav pandered to it and gave in to his huge desires and Dovid didn’t.  Anyone born with a bigger desire for evil, has a bigger chance at being great.  Eisav could have been Moshiach if he worked on himself and fought his desires, if he harnessed his appetite for physicality and used it for spirituality, but Eisav liked instant gratification and refused to discipline himself for anything long-term.

“Eat, be merry, for tomorrow I die,” is Eisav’s motto.  This is what he says: what do I need spirituality, let me have instant pleasure. Soup down my throat.  Now.  In fact, did you ever wonder, why did Eisav have to ask Yaakov to pour the soup down his throat?  What was wrong with his own two hands?  Eisav was actually pleasuring himself as he conducted this whole transaction – he was so wrapped up in gratifying himself, he wouldn’t even stop to feed himself.  Gimme, gimme.  I deserve.  I want.  All nerve endings need pleasuring now.  That is the wrap-up of Eisav’s approach to life.

There was a psychological study, aptly titled the Stanford Marshmallow experiment, which involved, yup, delicious pillowy sweet marshmallows.  Oozing goodness.  And put right in front of some nosh-loving children.  The point of the study was to test the children’s ability to defer on pleasure and see whether there was any correlation with future success.  So, there sat the children and the marshmallows, in a room affording a view to researchers.  In front of each child that mmm-mmm-good marshmallow was plunked down, right there, tantalizingly sweet right under their nose.  The children were told that if they wait and don’t eat it, they would get another one in a while.   Think of that – control yourself and double your pleasure.

The researchers left the room.  Some children gobbled up the nosh right away.  Some kept poking at it, smelling it, nibbling off its corners.  And some children ignored the nosh and earned the reward of a second marshmallow.  The children were then tracked to see which ones finished high school, which went to college and which ended up with good lives.  It was found (is it surprising?) that children who controlled their desire for the instant nosh were the ones who ended up successful.  Wanting instant gratification is a weakness.

A person who lives in this world only thinking of the pleasures of Olam HaZeh [the temporal world here], like Eisav did, is a bigger idiot.  Good people know we ought at times to deny the instant pleasure because when it comes to Olam HaBah [the next world which is eternal], the pleasure there is greater and we would be idiots to trade a great thing for something stupid just because it’s instant.  An example often given by the late Rabbi Noach Weinberg, ZT”L:  eating ice cream is a pleasure.  Saving a life is a greater pleasure.  If you had to choose between the two, which would you do?  Give up the ice cream- that cool delicious instant feeling of coldness sliding down your throat?  Of course – cuz you know the pleasure of saving a life will last a lifetime.  Eisav refused to self-discipline in anything.  He wanted pleasure – he wanted it now – he wanted it physically, which is why he ended up with no spiritual or emotional pleasures.

Yaakov, his brother, on the other hand, knew how to defer, to wait things out, to channel and harness his passion and keep it in check.  In fact, he was able to wait for the love of his life, working toward his marriage, because he knew how to wait things out.  Those willing to harness passion, control their desires and trade instant gratification for greater things, those are the ones who end up with the ever-lasting pleasures.

After all, instant soup is quite bland.  Instant world is blander, yet.  Go for the real deal, the real lasting spiritual pleasure.


About jewishspectacles

Jewish Spectacles-the kind you look through, not the kind you create!
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