Well, one more little idea that tickles my fancy before we get to the meat of the shiur:
This points out how incredibly wealthy we are by historical standards. The symbols of גיים, of the ultimate luxury, were fresh greens in the winter and cold drinks in the summer. Nowadays, we take these for granted.
A few years ago there was a YouTube video making fun of ”A Yeshiva Guy Says Over a Vort“. It’s very funny, but may (and did) offend many people who don’t like the idea of mocking מאמרי חז״ל. I personally don’t mind jokes, especially ones like this that bring out serious issues.
The vort is brought down in the name of Rav Chaim Kanievsky:
In response to the criticism the creator of the video defended themself:
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein had a nice, balanced response.
The humor is in the anachronism: imagining the אבות being concerned about a מחלוקת in the Gemara! But there is such a concept, from our parasha:
What does משמרתי מצותי חקותי ותורתי mean?
This is a huge issue, notably because so many of the stories in the Torah from before מתן מורה violate the laws of the Torah (Yakov marries sisters, Avraham serves meat and milk, among many others). I will not address that now (even though it is the more interesting question). For more on this, see the discussion on Mi Yodea and Torah Musings and Rabbi Leibtag’s shiur.
My approach is based on the נפש החיים:
The avot had an inherent sense of right and wrong (we’ve discussed the concept of “natural morality” before) לפי שורש נשמתו. Rav Soloveitchik attributes part of that to a level of רוח הקודש:
Part of our faith is that the Torah is the proper way to act in the world that we live in, and thus the laws of the Torah are “inherent” in the world. Those with enough religious sensitivity could “derive” those laws from observation (with some Divine help). It’s not the same thing as being “commanded”, though.
With that in mind, I would like to look at that vort seriously but not literally.
So did the Avot actually make ברכות on their food? I would argue that they certainly did. The amud-a-week program has recently been looking at the ברכות, and the Gemara discusses why we say them:
After some discussion trying to derive ברכות from psukim, the Gemara concludes that it is סברא. It just makes sense. If we acknowledge that ה׳ created the world, then we should express that when we take advantage of it.
And the Avot certainly acknowledged that ה׳ created the world:
Why does the vort say there is a מחלוקת about the bracha on lentil stew?
The question then is, does the lentil stew count as “food”. Do people generally eat it the way that Esav did? Let’s look at the pasuk:
What does נא mean? Translating it as “please” is incongruous in context, to say the least. We don’t expect Esav to be a paragon on courtly manners. The Targum translates it as כען, ”now“. Jerry Esrig suggested that it is in the sense of the law of the קרבן פסח:
Esav was demanding to eat the nearly raw lentils. That defines the question of the bracha: is that food?
And why does eating bread solve the problem? It’s not that bread has magical halachic properties; it’s that bread defines a meal.
The gemara is discussing why wine has its own ברכה, and concludes that is is different from other juices in that it is סעיד, it satisfies the appetite:
We consider bread the definition of a meal based on the social reality that existed then; it’s another testament to our wealth that we can eat a complete meal without a cheap, easy-to-produce source of calories. So we obey the letter of the law but evade its spirit when we eat without washing, just to avoid bentching. But that’s another story.
Note that bread is something that man brings from the earth. When we say המוציא לחם מן הארץ, we are thanking G-d not only for the food but also for making us human, able to craft our own food.
So when Yakov gives Esav לחם ונזיד עדשים, he is saying “Sit; eat like a mentsch, not a behema”. And Esav misses the point: