This week’s parsha -Toldos – Offspring
We Jews believe that righteousness is a choice, and each person has the capability to an outstandingly virtuous and progressively elevated person. The gemarra tells us how one’s characteristics and family (along with other factors, such as future spouse), are proclaimed even before one exits from the womb – but whether one will turn out to be wicked or righteous, is left for us to determine.
However, we are faced with a bit of a ‘kasha’ (difficulty) by the midrash which explains how Rebecca was agonized by the endless tumult in her womb. It relates that she felt a strong thrust whenever she passed by a Beis Midrash (place of Torah study), and similar hurtling commotions upon passing a place of idol worship. And the Midrash reveals that, unbeknownst to the poor mother, she was carrying twins, and Yakov was running to the Beis Midrash, and Esav the other way. And so it was, that Yakov is later described as becoming a pure man who dwelt in tents (places of study), while Esav, even red and rugged in appearance, became a hunter.
Strangely, despite there diametrically opposed personalities, another midrash reports that until Bar Mitzvah, nobody could distinguish them. (Besides their mother, of course.)
We may offer a resolution to all the apparently incongruent views, by distinguishing between personality, and righteousness. As we said, we are born into a certain set of natures both without and within, yet we are given power in how to play our hands, or develop our territory. Both brothers could have gone either way, and ideally our sages teach, they both ought to have captained the fledgling new Jewish nation (which would have saved Yakov from having to marry both Rachel and Leah, along with boundless other repercussions from Esav’s failure).
So how was it that Esav was running to idolatry and Yakov to Hashem?
If we understand in brief that idolatry epitomizes the physical realm and Torah the spiritual, we see that they both merely inherited different worlds, each with its own unique possibilities for good and Divine service. Rather than raising up the physical, as we Jews do whenever we sanctify the Sabbath with wine and challah, commemorate pesach with matza, or give a loved one flowers, Esav chose to profane the spiritual and generate impurity as is the way of idolatry. (After all, we can ask – what was a saintly woman like our revered Rebecca doing hanging out in such places? The Arizal teaches us that she was doing outreach – and so Esav with his nature could have been a tremendously positive influence on so many, that Yakov was less cut out for.< as a result Yakov had to broaden his horizons and character, as he was occasioned in the proceeding parshas.)
And so people could not distinguish between the fraternal twins, in regards to their righteousness until they started to part ways in life. (Rebecca, having grown up in an amoral environment was always one step ahead at judging her children, over Isaac who grew up in the house of the pious Abraham.) A startling midrash can now easily be interpreted in light of our discussion, that is that our Messianic King, David, Hashem’s beloved composer of Psalms, was mirror image of Esav at his birth. For as the gemarra advises – “if one is born under the sign of Mars – a sign of blood – one could become a murderer (Esav) or a shochet or a doctor’ – In other words, we choose how to play our hand, and King David became a hero fighting for God and His Jewish people, while the red Esav (The spiritual and genealogical heir to Amalek and the Roman’s – termed “reds” in Hebrew), wage war with us until today (our current exile is termed, from a gamut of reasons, the Roman exile).
Have a Great Shabbos
–Beth Shifra Crew