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We are all born with negative traits, however, our mission is to channel them for the good, as did Jacob and King David.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

The week’s Torah portion is “Toldot” (Genesis 25:19–28:9), and in it we read about the birth of Jacob and Esau. The former was righteous while the latter was wicked.

In fact, the Sages tell us that even in the womb, when Rebecca passed a Temple of idols, Esau would be pushing to get out, and when she passed a place of Torah study, Jacob would push to get out.

From their very conception, Esau was pulled towards evil and Jacob towards good.

We are told that Esau emerged from the womb with a reddish appearance. Somewhat paralleling this idea is the fact that Esau sold the birthright to his younger brother Jacob for “a bowl of red soup.”

This association between Esau and the color red led to Esau receiving an additional name, or nickname, of “Edom,” which also means red.

The continuous association with red teaches us that Esau had a predisposition to blood and cruelty, but he could have also channeled these “interests” in a positive manner. For example, a person who likes blood and, perhaps, even death to some extent, should consider becoming a shochet, a ritual slaughterer.

King David, on the other hand, was also born with a reddish complexion. But he channeled his “red” urges to fight the wars of God and lay the foundation for Jerusalem to become the capital of Israel.

This is true for each and every one of us. Our talents can be channeled for good or bad.

It is noted that when selling the birthright to Jacob, Esau didn’t merely say that he wanted a bowl of soup, but he specified the “red” soup. He didn’t have to specify the “red” aspect of the soup. He could have said “the soup,” “the hot soup,” “the fresh soup” or several other descriptions. But no, he had to describe it as “red.” From here we learn that the way we speak can further fuel our internal inclinations.

A person who speaks in an undignified manner will further develop his raw, undignified capabilities. One who speaks with respect and dignity will improve himself accordingly. The Torah is telling us that our deeds and speech mold our character.

This is the message of the different paths of Jacob and Esau. We are all born with negative traits, however, our mission is to channel them for the good, as did Jacob and King David. And the best way to do so is to be careful with how we speak.

Our speech is the gateway to our souls. By being careful with what comes out of our mouths, we can ensure that our souls and character traits will go in the right direction.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.