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INTRODUCING...Table Talk...a reflection of this week's Torah Portion

TABLE TALK – November 13, 2015

Parshat Toldot: Negotiation, Deceit, and Lies


“…And for the sin we have committed against you -- through [bad faith] negotiations.” ― Yom Kippur, Machzor

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” ― John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 1961

29 When Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Give me some of that to gulp down, for I am famished’...31 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?’ 33 But Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. ― Genesis: Chapter 25: 29-34

  1. Did you negotiate a solution with a friend or family member this week? If so, did both sides come out happy?

  2. Jacob negotiated with Esau when he was in a particularly vulnerable state. Is it okay to do so?

  3. Is it important to think of the other side when we’re trying to negotiate a solution, or should we only think about delivering the best outcome?

  4. Why does Yom Kippur consider bad faith negotiations a sin committed against God and not Man?


“God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another!” ― William Shakespeare, Hamlet

“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, he called his older son Esau and said…2 "I am old now, and I do not know how soon I may die. 3 Take your quiver and bow, and go out and hunt me some game. 4 Then prepare a dish for me such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die…."

18 Jacob went to his father and said, "Father." And he said, "Which of my sons are you?" 19 Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau, your first-born; I have done as you told me…eat of my game, that you may give me your innermost blessing."

21 Isaac said to Jacob, "Come closer that I may feel you, my son--whether you are really my son Esau or not." 22 So Jacob drew close to his father Isaac, who felt him and wondered. "The voice is the voice of Jacob, yet the hands are the hands of Esau." 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; and so he blessed him. ― Genesis: Chapter 27: 1-4; 18-19; 21-24

  1. Ultimately, Jacob received Isaac’s blessing. Do you think the ends justified the means?

  2. Have you ever benefited by deceiving someone? Who was hurt by the deception?

  3. Do you believe people are truthful? When is it helpful to be trusting of others, and when is it not? What do you think of Nieztsche’s quote that the harm from lying is not the lie itself, but the distrust that develops as a result?


“The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie, comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“So Isaac stayed in Gerar. When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, "She is my sister. " He was afraid to say "my wife," thinking, "The men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful." 8

― Geneis: Chapter 26:6-8

  1. Isaac lied to protect his own safety. Under what circumstances is it acceptable or even appropriate to lie?

  2. Are there times when you told the truth that, in retrospect, you wish you hadn’t?

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