From the Womb to the Tomb
The children agitated within her ... and Hashem said to her: "Two Nations are in your womb, two regimes from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger!" (Bereishis/Genesis 25:23)
If we really took a deeper look into the "storybook heroes" from the Book of Genesis and ask...Is there anything we can learn that could explain and enrich our own personal lives; with all its tests and struggles? And guess what...one of the most profound lessons of all is sitting right under our nose, in the story of Yakov and Esav!
Check this out!
In Parsha Toldos, at the beginning, we read about the births of the TWINS: Yakov & Esav. It says in 25:26 that after Esav was born first, then "his brother emerged with his hand grasping on to the HEEL of Esav...The lads grew up and Esav became one who knows hunting, a man of the field; but Yakov was a wholesome man, abiding in tents."
The Sifsei Chachamim comments about their PERSONALITIES that until they grew up they were relatively similar to one another. But after the age of thirteen, the essential differences became apparent with Esav turning to idols and Yakov going to the study hall.
As we know from that point on, Esav and Yakov lived completely polar opposite lives. And there was always a fight between them - who would defeat the other. Always!
And they both competed for power from the day they were born until the day they died (more about that later!)
The Accumulator versus the Builder!
Throughout their lives, both Yakov and Esav were essentially doing the very same thing! Both were acquiring wives and children; sheep and cattle; land and wealth; weapons and soldiers! But there was a huge difference between these two. Let's look inside at various verses to help us paint a complete picture of who is Accumulating and who is Building:
- In the Parshas, we follow Yakov after fleeing Esav - as he spends 36 years away from home. In this period, we witness how Yakov the "tent dwelling wholesome man" becomes worthy for his offspring - including us to be called "B'nai Yisroel." To prepare himself for the Real World, he first learns in the Academy of Eber, an expert in facing a world of manipulative, aggressive and corrupt men. Then Yakov goes to Haran to get brutal "on the job" training by serving in the house of the deceptive Laban! Just imagine how such a wholesome and principled man was able to outwit Laban and become the Patriarch of an entire family with vast wealth and strength!
- There has never been a movie or a book with as much drama and emotion as the entire Parsha of Vayishlach.
- With Esav's anger and determination to attack and destroy his own brother...
- With Yakov's all night battle and victory over the Angel of Esav...
- To Yakov's skill at preparation and negotiation and ultimate peaceful reconciliation with Esav.
- To the rape of his daughter Dina by Shechem, and the ultimate deception and decimation of the city.
- And finally losing his beloved wife Rachel. Plus the later loss of his favorite son Yosef!!
As we stated at the beginning, throughout their lives, both Yakov and Esav were essentially doing the very same thing! But I believe we can now fully recognize who was the ACCUMULATOR and who was the BUILDER!!
Clearly, Esav was the Accumulator! Underlying all his thoughts and choices, Esav was only thinking about himself...always asking, "What's in it for me?" With no end to his greed and taking, taking, taking everything he could get his hands on!
But looking from the outside, it seems that Yakov was doing the same thing - acquiring and collecting and growing his family and wealth. Except there is one significant difference - Yakov was the Builder always looking outside of himself asking, "Who am I serving now?" Yakov was fully aware of his personal strengths AND his weaknesses! And dedicated his life to learning how to INTEGRATE his service to G-d and still navigate amongst our very self-centered world. For sure Yakov had to be tough, he had to fight and he had complete Emunah that G-d would be by his side!
So WHO ARE WE? Are we Esav or are we Yakov?
THE ANSWER TO THIS VITAL QUESTION IS THAT WE ARE BOTH!!
From a spiritual perspective, we can see that our PERSONALITY is made up of two very different and contradictory parts. We are made up of two "inclinations"- The Yetzer Tov (Yakov) and the Yetzer Hara (Esav). One side of us is reaching up to serve G-d. And the other side is pushing us down to serve OurSelves! The STRUGGLE between Yakov and Esav is the same struggle we experience inside ourselves - every single day of our life!!
As addicts, we know all about self-gratification, self-reliance, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. We want to be like Esav - living a life that is seemingly independent and exhilarating! And then we hit Rock Bottom and come into The Program. But we don't really become a New Person - that's not possible. Rather, we RECOVER our inner and most humble, honest and pure self!! It's always been there, we never lose it - it's being suffocated by our Esav-Self.
From the WOMB to the TOMB: where do you want to be at 120?
So let's get back to the Lives and the Deaths of Yakov and Esav
And here's where the real Chidush is in this Special Edition Post:
As we have learned, when Rivkah gave birth to the twins, Yakov was holding onto the heel of Esav. Yakov KNEW that as a spiritual and modest being, that he could not survive in the tough world he was headed. He knew that his role was to BUILD Klal Yisroel. That's why he had to HOLD ON TO THE ESAV INSIDE OF HIM! For the benefit it would have keeping him CLEVER and STRONG enough to fill his critically important mission.
But the end of Yakov's life was also the end of Esav's life - (another hint to the symbolism that they were just one person.) See the last Post discussing Parsha Yayechi in which we learn that at the burial of Yakov, when Esav showed up to declare his rule over Yakov, Chusim hit Esav so hard that his head was decapitated from his body and it rolled into the Kever with Yakov!!
The Midrash connects the name Rivkah (Rebekah/RVKH) with hakever (hkvr), literally "the grave," which is Rivkah spelled backward. And if the reader finds the link between this name and that word a bit startling, I might remind you that throughout the Tractate Nidda, the word kever (literally grave) is used as a synonym for womb (rehem)!