Isaac and Rebecca are married for 20 years. They have no children yet- and the Rabbis teach that this is a sign of the difficulty that comes with maintaining the continuity of the Jewish people.

They persist, and eventually Rebecca gives birth to twins. These twins are from the same womb, but opposites in many ways. The older one, Esau, represents the idea that might makes right. The younger, Jacob, is more serene and aims to learn from his grandfather Abraham.

Esau discards the birthright- which is not just an inheritance but is also a responsibility. Because Esau does not want the responsibilities, he sells the birthright for a pot of lentils.

Eventually Esau will come to regret it. As people advance in life, the things that we thought were so important in our youth are less important. We look for things which are eternal as we sense our mortality waning. Although Esau will come to regret it, and even though the gates of repentance are never closed, it’s tough to be like Jacob after 70 years of being like Esau.

Jacob wants and desires to be the spiritual heir of his father. In one of the most poignant stories that appears in Jewish history, Isaac (who is sightless at the end of his life), wants to deliver the charge to his children that they should take over for him. Isaac somehow thinks that Esau can do it, but Rebecca is well aware that Esau will never do it. Therefore Rebecca disguises Jacob and he pretends to be Esau while the blessings are given to him.

When Isaac discovers this, he confirms that the blessings should be given to Jacob. However, Esau is upset and will not forgive Jacob.

Esau wants everything. He wants to have the good time, all the physical pleasures, and he also wants to be the great noble spiritual person. He doesn’t realize that you’ve got to work hard if you want to progress and become a great person.

Esau is identified with totalitarianism and cruel governments. Jacob, on the other hand, becomes a spiritual giant- the leader and forerunner of the Jewish people.

Taught by Rabbi Berel Wein –