The Day Esav Cried for the First Time

They don’t come much worse than Esav. Between the Torah text in parashat Toldot and commentary and midrash on it, we learn that Esav was coarse, superficial and gluttonous; that he was a philanderer and rapist and, most damning and surely the cause of his perpetual bad behavior, utterly uninterested in God. It’s difficult to believe such a wild beast of a man could come of the union of Yitzhak and Rivka.

And, yet, even the hardest-hearted must acknowledge that Esav suffers some terrible indignities. First, Yakov opportunistically acquires Esav’s birthright in exchange for a pot of beans, the most lopsided trade ever, notwithstanding the Torah’s vilifying pronouncement that Esav “despised his birthright.” Then, Yakov tricks his blind, death-bed ridden father into giving him Esav’s blessing, with the encouragement and assistance of Rivka. When Esav realizes what his brother and their mother have done and cries out, “Father, haven’t you a blessing for me?” he is, at least for that moment, no longer the heartless hunter, but an abandoned child.

In my poem, The Day Esav Cried for the First Time, I try to imagine what Esav might have felt, at that moment; as well as how that moment is tangled, inextricably, with every moment leading up to it and every one thereafter.


The Day Esav Cried for the First Time

Can you recall a time, and a place, when you were happy?
A time before the brute force with which you attack every problem
made you hard. A time before the weight of expectations became
too heavy to bear. Was there ever a moment?

You try to ignore the demons that whisper to you; their obsequious
compliments, their evil exhortations. You are strong, like the bear.
Swift as the hawk. You owe nothing to anyone. Will you allow him
to steal what is yours? Your hate is wholly justified. Your hate is holy.

But you see their point. This is who you are, how you were created.
Before your lungs filled with air for the first time, you felt the urge
to acquire, to dominate. So eager to enter the world, you showed
your brother your foot. And, so, the course of your life was set.

And Jacob, who could not shoot a straight arrow, is also who he
was created to be. No innocent, but the plotting predator, waiting
to pick off his prey in a moment of weakness. You’ve so much
in common. It’s just that he’s better at it than you.

And, yet, the wounds you’ve suffered today–duplicitous brother,
devious mother–are too much, even for you, the heartless hunter.
“Father, haven’t you a blessing for me?” And the whispering demons,
uneasy with emotion, are mute. Alone. You’ve always been alone.

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