Talmud this Shabbat: Trading Your Life for a Necktie, Your Birthright for a Pot of Stew


He was one of the most prominent rabbis at one of the largest and most influential congregations in the world. He was lauded and applauded, his advice and counsel sought after by presidents, popes, and the Dalai Lama.

And then, at the height of his career, he had to resign from his congregation. Why?

An affair with a congregant? No.

Embezzled funds? No.

Addicted to drugs or alcohol? No.

Why then? Because he stole a designer necktie from a store in Palm Beach, Florida, and the police discovered four more stolen neckties in his car. He spent the last chapter of his life, twelve years, no longer doing the work he loved to do—over a necktie. What is that?

It’s not just him. It’s us. Why do we shoot ourselves in the foot? Why do we trade everything for nothing? Where does our capacity for enormously stupid self-destruction come from, and what can we do about it?

Shabbat morning we will encounter one story that is well known but suffers for its familiarity (Esau’s trading in his birthright for a pot of stew), and one story that we know about but never study (Samson trading in his God-given strength for Delilah even though he knows she means him ill in Judges 16).

Both men do what this rabbi did: trade everything for nothing.

How do we not do that?

Happy Thanksgiving, and see you on Shabbat!

Fondly,
Wes