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    Sitting still in a room – Tol’dot

    Two brothers, and such a contrast.

    “Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field: Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents” (Gen. 25:27).

    The world seems to prefer Esau as a role model – dashing, dynamic, on the go, looked up to and admired by his contemporaries.

    Jacob is what used to be called a “swot”, curled up with a book, uninterested in sporting prowess or physical pursuits – a person “dwelling in tents”, almost a parasite, doing nothing for society.

    One can leaven both descriptions and find faults in Esau and virtues in Jacob, but to appreciate Jacob it is necessary to ask who it was who achieved the really significant changes and developments in history.

    If the criterion is who marched with the armies and fought the battles, the answer is not Jacob. But it was the Jacobs who dwelt in tents who developed the great ideas that moulded mankind – summed up by Pascal who said, “All the evils of life are due to the fact that man has not learned how to sit still in a room”.

    In the Jewish judgment, contemplative people who sit in a room or dwell in a tent are the ones who make all the difference.

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