By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated in memory of Elka bas Zisel OBM
Dedicated in memory of Leah bas Rochel OBM
It has been said that the difference between a healthy person and an unhealthy person is that the former is working on his issues, while the latter is resigned to them.
Our Torah portion this week Toldot (Bereishis [Genesis] 25:19-28:9) recounts the birth of the twins Yaacov (Jacob) and Eisav (Esau). Growing up, the two boys developed their contrasting lifestyles - Jacob of piety and scholarship, as compared to Esau, of violence and corruption. How did Jacob and Esau end up so different? Same parents, same upbringing, same mother's milk, and yet so drastically different from each other that they become the paradigm of all of literature's accounts of "the evil twin."
In fact, they provide a metaphor for the endless struggle within each of us: the G‑dly Jacob and his desire for transcendence vs. the instinctual Esau, with his insatiable drive for self-satisfaction.
A look at their lives. Esau is born red and as hairy as an adult, and so he remains: Edom—red, intense, driven, violent. From the day of his birth, he sees himself as a static creation; that's who he is, and that is who he will be until he dies. He sees no reason to work things out with his brother, to address the "other side." He is simply Esau.
Jacob is born with his issues as well. Timid, a bookworm, Mama's boy. Yet he is willing to acknowledge and confront Esau. He dresses up in Esau's garb and tells his father he will hunt meat. Jacob stares Esau in the eye.
It's scary. Can one dress up like Esau and not become Esau?
Jacob succeeds, impressing his father enough to secure the blessing, and then is left alone to deal with his newfound self, to bring it into the rough world outside the tent, where Esau is comfortable. He spends years as a shepherd in Laban's house. He thrives, despite the bumps along the way. Eventually, he is sufficiently empowered to meet the brother he once feared.
We all have our issues, our places we'd rather not go. The easiest way is to let sleeping dogs lie, to just let them be. Uncovering wounds only seems to evoke painful feelings. Yet if we don't address our issues, we simply drift along. If we don't tackle Esau, we become Esau.
That was the difference between them. Jacob and Esau each had their "other side"; Jacob was willing to acknowledge his and deal with it, while Esau chose to ignore it.
We are given the choice. As Shem told Rebecca when she was pregnant with the twins, "Two ruling forces are within you; when one rises the other falls" (Rashi's commentary, Genesis 25:23). If we choose to rock the boat, we can mature through our struggles, emerge stronger. If we sweep the opposing forces within us under the rug, they will pile up until we trip over them.
We've all been there—something is said, and there is an awkward silence. We have a choice: We can address it, like Jacob, or we can resign ourselves to it, like Esau.
When we go where we fear most to tread, we come out the other side as "Israel"—we have struggled and we have succeeded. As the defeated angel tells Jacob (ibid., 32:29): "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have commanding power with [an angel of] G‑d and with men, and you have prevailed."
Let's be Jacob, not Esau.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Baruch Epstein)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!
If you would like to dedicate the weekly Parsha Perspective in honor or memory of a person or occasion, please contact Rabbi Shusterman at firstname.lastname@example.org