Torah Portion: Toldot (Generations) Genesis 25:19-28:9
HafTorah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
This week we read of the struggle between two boys, twins, born to G-dly parents, raised in the same home and yet turning out completely different. One could say they started out parve but became milk and meat as we read about them. One was a dweller in tents and the other a man of the field. How did this strife come about in such a G-dly atmosphere? Abraham was still alive during their early years, probably helping with their development. How did it happen?
Let us see what answers we can come to tonight. I want us to first look at Genesis 25:27 where the Torah gives us a hint of who these two young men had become. Esau had become a skillful hunter, a man of the field. Jacob became a pure man living in tents. In the culture of the time Esau, the first born, was to become the patriarch of the family, leading it both in life and in faith. He was to prepare himself for this role by being involved in those things that would bring him to the level of knowledge to take over at his father’s death. How does the Torah describe him? He was a skilled hunter, a man of the field. So, if game needed to be killed for food the task would have fallen to a servant, not to the coming leader. What we see however is a man who hunted and killed because he liked it. His time was not spent preparing for his coming role but in hunting. So it would seem he cared little for his responsibilities.
Now, what does the Torah say about Jacob? He was a pure man. The word “tam” is the word used in Hebrew. It is commonly used in reference to the service of G-d in the sacrifices that were offered. It also is one of the most common words used to describe someone who whole-heartedly walked with G-d. This verse also says he was a dweller in tents. He was always around learning both about G-d and about life.
As time goes on we see Esau being a person who represents a life not lives to its fullest, someone who lived for the day with only the thought of what would satisfy him in the moment. We see in verse 34 where Torah says he despised his birthright. He preferred the thrill of the hunt, who needs a birthright.
In the beginning these boys were parve. They were each born with predispositions as are we. Some of us have a disposition to lose our temper. Some of us are inclined to be easy going. We are all born with these traits that influence us to meet life a certain way. However, that does not mean we are captive to those things. It does mean the evil inclination will use them to trip us up as we go through life if we give him the opportunity. Our battle is to be able to master those natural ways of reacting that we are all born with. To be a slave to our natural impulses will allow or cause us to miss what G-d has for us. G-d warned Cain in Genesis 4:17 to resist the sin at his door. He had the choice to rule over it. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying well that is just how I am. No, that may be how we would naturally be but we are called to rise above that and become who G-d wants us to be. Many times our inborn traits are good and result in good but if not controlled and used for good they can lead us astray and cause us to sin, to miss G-d. Yes, both Esau and Jacob were born parve. Jacob was able to control his natural predisposition. Esau did not and it led him away from his birth right into sin.
Now Jacob does not get off scott free in these verses. He uses, at the urging of his Mother, some pretty underhanded ways to deceive his father and for theses we see him pay a price as he goes on through life. Even in the purchase of the birthright he purchased it fair and square from Esau. No tricks were involved. He did not cheat Esau. But it is almost 300 years later in Exodus 4:22 that we see G-d ratify the deal so to speak. Why do you think it took so long before we see in Torah G-d calling Israel His first born? I read a quote this week I thought was good. You can sell a birthright or beans but you can’t buy one for beans. Jacob bought Esau’s birthright but it took awhile to realize it. We have a birthright from G-d sealed by the Messiah yet if not careful we can waste it. We cannot realize it without effort. We must work out our own salvation as James says. To do less would be a waste of our life as G-d meant it to be. As Israel, we have to pass through the iron furnaces of Egypt to be who we are called to be. Deut 4:20