We only get one chance to live our best lives and there is a great conundrum regarding what to focus on in order to live that best life. Should we focus on planning and strategizing, or should we prioritize the notion of being present and living in the moment? Of course, the answer is both, but the two seem mutually exclusive. If we are truly living in the present, we are not strategizing for the future; and if we are busy planning and strategizing for the future, then we are not focused on the present. What to do?
My best advice to live life to the fullest is for one to learn how to truly be present through experiences, making the most of them and sensing and experiencing them to the max. We should also recognize that our perceptions of life, our thoughts, opinions and values develop over time, which contribute to our awareness and humility when we choose what to be focusing our energies on now, and what to look for going forward.
In last week’s parsha, Parshat Toldot, we read of a rambunctious Esau at the age of 13 who has no use for the religion and traditions of his father. During a moment of weakness and hunger, he sells his birth rite and blessings for a mere bowl of lentil soup.
וַיָּ֥זֶד יַעֲקֹ֖ב נָזִ֑יד וַיָּבֹ֥א עֵשָׂ֛ו מִן־הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה וְה֥וּא עָיֵֽף׃ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר עֵשָׂ֜ו אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֗ב הַלְעִיטֵ֤נִי נָא֙ מִן־הָאָדֹ֤ם הָאָדֹם֙ הַזֶּ֔ה כִּ֥י עָיֵ֖ף אָנֹ֑כִי עַל־כֵּ֥ן קָרָֽא־שְׁמ֖וֹ אֱדֽוֹם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִכְרָ֥ה כַיּ֛וֹם אֶת־בְּכֹרָֽתְךָ֖ לִֽי׃ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר עֵשָׂ֔ו הִנֵּ֛ה אָנֹכִ֥י הוֹלֵ֖ךְ לָמ֑וּת וְלָמָּה־זֶּ֥ה לִ֖י בְּכֹרָֽה׃
Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished and Esu said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished”—which is why he was named Edom.*Edom Play on Heb. ’adom “red.”
Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” And Esau said, “I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So, he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Jacob then gave Esau bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank, and he rose and went away. Thus did Esau spurn the birthright.
Esau had no use for any of it. Yet 54 years later when Jacob steps in and acquires the blessings of his saintly father Isaac, Esau’s reaction was of a profoundly different nature.
כִּשְׁמֹ֤עַ עֵשָׂו֙ אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֣י אָבִ֔יו וַיִּצְעַ֣ק צְעָקָ֔ה גְּדֹלָ֥ה וּמָרָ֖ה עַד־מְאֹ֑ד וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לְאָבִ֔יו בָּרְכֵ֥נִי גַם־אָ֖נִי אָבִֽי׃
When Esau hears his father’s words, he burst into wild and bitter sobbing, and said to his father, “Bless me too, Father!”
What a difference some life, age, and experience make! Esau sounds like a completely different person.
While we aim to live our best lives and live in the moments today, let’s be cognizant that how we feel and perceive the world today will develop as we age and grow in life. One should not sell away the timeless treasured blessings of their heritage for a relatively momentary pleasure.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence
Jewish Federation in Southern New Jersey