Jacob faced adversity head on, while his twin brother Esau pointed the finger at everyone but himself.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Toldot” (Genesis 25:19–28:9) and in it we read about Jacob and Esau: twin brothers with opposite personalities.
After the episode in which Jacob “steals” Esau’s blessings, we see something about Esau that helps us to better understand his evil personality and character traits.
Esau felt cheated that Jacob received his father’s blessing. He believed that the blessing belonged to him. Until now, Esau believed that he would inherit his father and become the third patriarch of the Jewish people, but after Jacob received the blessings, he knew it was over.
He was so angry that Jacob received the blessings that he was determined to kill him.
Meanwhile, what does Esau do? He rushes to city hall to get married! As the verse says “Esau went to Yishmael and married Machlat the daughter of Yishmael, the son of Avraham, the sister of Nevayot, in addition to his wives.”
This is a very weird sequence of events. As a response to being cheated out of a blessing he goes and gets married? What’s going on here? Why get married now?
Our sages teach us that if life is not going exactly as planned we should contemplate our actions and resolve to become better people.
Regular self-improvement is the key to a happy and fulfilling life.
Esav, unfortunately, didn’t realize this.
He was a truly evil person who always blamed his troubles on someone else. He believed that it was always someone else who was the problem, not him. He figured it was one of his wives who was guilty for the events that led Jacob to get the blessing and Esau to lose the inheritance.
So, blaming it on his current wives, he goes and marries someone else. The reason that he travels to uncle Yishmael to find himself a new wife is because he assumes that since Yishmael is a relative, and a descendant of Avraham, that marrying his daughter would restore his lost fortune.
On the other hand, Jacob’s character is the exact opposite of Esau’s. Jacob’s name essentially means “heel” referring to Jacob’s extreme sense of humility. He was always looking to improve himself and become better. Indeed, his other name “Israel” means “to prevail” referring to the success and accomplishments that Jacob achieved in his life.
It was his “Jacob” that led to his “Israel” – his humility and his desire to become better made him a great person.
Let us take this opportunity to contrast the personalities of Jacob and Esau. Esau’s downfall was because he always blamed others.
Jacob’s success was because he took responsibility for his actions and always worked hard to become better and achieve more.
I think the Jacob route is the way to go!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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