JUSTICE-3/Jacob and Esau, the twins who sought justice

Noahide Seven Commandments Torah classes

© 2017 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner

Torah Class JUSTICE-3/Esau and Jacob, the twins who sought civil right

1: Justice, only justice you hall pursue!

Seeking JUSTICE is divine. By seeking JUSTICE, Man emulates ELKM Who Created the World to stand a trail and JUSTICE. To implement JUSTICE the judge must seek the truth, and nothing else but truth.

But JUSTICE is evasive. The Torah says “Justice, only Justice you shall pursue…” (Deut. 19:20) implying that JUSTICE is to be pursued, but may never be achieved. Only ELKM knows the truth.

As if to show us how difficult it is to find out a truthful verdict, the Torah presents us with the story of the twin boys, Esau and Jacob, each claiming to the firstborn right. The issue is, first of all, monetary.  The firstborn son inherits twice as much property than his siblings. The firstborn status also caries a spiritual position in the family, the position of the priest. Esau and Jacob would quarrel about (1) being recognized at the firstborn son (2) being eligible to receive their father Isaac’s material blessing (3) being eligible to receive Abraham’s material and spiritual blessing. Yes, their stake was high.

The twin’s story is convoluted, twisted by unusual facts, and by the parent’s intervention. When it comes to inheritance, the parent’s opinion is crucial. \after all, it is the father who decides to whom the estate would go, and to whom the estate would not go. The opinion of the mother is also crucial.

When Isaac asks Esau to bring him “a hunt,” or good food, he says to his son: let me bless you, because “I do not know the day I will die” (Genesis 27:2) The Talmud comments: there are seven things that evade man’s knowledge :

(1) the day he would die (Like Isaac says)

(2) the day he would be ‘comforted’

(3) the depth of the judgment, din (like here with |Jacob and Esau)

 (4) how much money he would earn in his lifetime (Like Jacob who was blessed with plenty of wealth yet remained poor and a wonder most of his life)

(5) what’s in your fellowman heart (lie Isaac Isaac who did not know who stood before him)

(6) to predict the gender of a pregnancy at conception (Lie Rebecka)

(7) when the forth kingdom of Esau would end (the Greek-Roman empire

The most important point to our discussion is line 3: the fact that a truthful judgment would forever evade a human judge.     .     .


As if to show us how difficult a truthful judgment is, the Torah present us the story of the two twins, each claiming to the firstborn status with all its privileges. You the reader is called upon to issue a judgement. \let’s see if this would be possible .

Isaac compared to Rebeca

\when it comes to inheritance, the paren’t opinion is essential.  As a judge,  you would like to know that each parent wishes wishes for his child.  Form the rest of the story you know that each parent opted for a different twin: Rebeca opted for Jacob, and Isaac for Esau. \who among the parents prevails? So the Torah starts the story by describing the parents:   :     :

“These are the histories of Isaac the son of Abraham.
Abraham had begotten Isaac. And Isaac was forty years old
when he took Rebeca, the daughter of Betuel the Aramite from Padan Aram,
the sister of Laban the Aramite to be his wife.
And Isaac entreated YHVH, across from his wife, for she was barren” (Genesis 25:19)

We already know that Isaac was the son of Abraham.  Why the repetition? So all the commentaries say that the Torah wishes us to know that Isaac resembled Abraham both physically and spiritually.  No one could claim that Isaac was born from Avimelech. It also means that Isaac was a “righteous, the son of a righteous. ” (Rashi) As a judge, you the reader knows now that Isaac’s opinion about his  inheritance is respected.

 Rebeca: A rose among the thorns
In contrast to Isaac, Rebeca is presented as a the “daughter of Betuel the Aramaic” or the master of cheating. His name suggests that he molested virgins. Rebeca was also the sister of “arch cheater.”  Her brother Laban the Aramaic, ” a big crook. Hence she came from a wicked family, a Mafia family, This may diminish her posture in your eyes, as a judge.  If she hated Esau, it should not affect your opinion of him. .This implies that she prevailed over Isaac and her opinion about the twins and her inheritance is paramount. \and she opted, let’s remember,for Jacob.

To whom would God listen? 

As if to address that issue: who is greater, Isaac or Rebeca, the Torah says next that both Rebeca and Isaac were barren, so conceive, so they prayed to G-d for children, “against each other.” (Genesis 25: 19.)  He prays for her, and she for him. Next the verse says that  YHVH listened to Isaac and she conceives,  Why? The Rabbis said:  “because a righteous the son of a righteous, is greater than a righteous the daughter of a wicked.” So one should not brag about how righteous he is despite his bad past. One should rather brag about being righteous, and being born to righteous family. This implies, therefore, that Isaac’s opinion should prevail over the opinion of Rebeca.  After all, he is the father and his opinion about his children’s inheritance is paramount. And he opted for Esau.

On the other hand, G-d listened to Isaac BECAUSE of Abraham. He allowed Rebeca to conceive so that His promise to Abraham of having children would be fulfilled. But that promise does not decide who among the children would receive the inheritance. Hence you the reader is left with not enough information to decide between Jacob and Esau.  The only way is to look at their conception.


3: She wanted to abort!

Indeed, the verse turns now to describe the boys conception: :

“And the children moved violently
against each other within her womb
And when this occurred she said, why am I?
And she went to inquire YHVH….“
(Genesis 25: 22)


Who was conceived first?

Her pregnancy was so difficult, The embryos moved up and down. Hence, you as a judge would not be able to tell who among the boys was conceived first!   When it comes to inheritance, this fact introduces more confusion!

She wanted to abort!

So painful was her pregnancy, that she said “Why am I…?” The Torah does not finish her sentence, as if to spare a bad mouth about her. But our sages did finish it\; she said \why am  pregnant? In short, she entertained ABORTION!
Imagine, Abraham’s daughter-in-law, the righteous Rebeca, considered an abortion, forbidden by Noah’s Rainbow Covenant! (See our classes.) Here her upraising in Betuel’s home had an effect. \she must have seen many abortions in her father’s home.

\our sages in the Talmud saw that as a blemish, a fault in Rebeca’s character. Initially, they said, she was destined to be the mother of the twelve tribes of Israel, but because she entertained an abortion she would never be pregnant again!

To you, as a judge, this blemish decreases her status. If she opted for Jacob, well, her opinion may not be important!   .    .

She inquired G-d

Rebeca, however, did NOT abort. Her righteousness overcame her uprising in Betuel’s home.  This speaks to her credit. Moreover, she went to consult with YHVH, meaning she consulted Shem, Noah’s firstborn son who lived nearby in his Torah Academy of Jerusalem (Rashi.) Shem informed her that she was pregnant with twin boys, each one is a father of a nation, and that these nations would struggle forever. Moreover, Shem said:  :

“And YHVH told her, two nations are in your womb
And two peoples from your inside will depart,
One people shall become mightier than the other,
And the senior, shall serve the Junior…

But there is a confusion here.  In Hebrew, you can’t tell  whether the junior would serve the senior, or the other war around: that the senior would serve the junior!
So not only we do not know who was conceived first,  who is the senior, but we also do not know who shall serve whom! .


4: Complete Twins

Since we can’t rely on the pregnancy, the best way to decide who gets the firstborn rights, is to look at the delivery itself.  \who came out first, and who came afterwards? This should be a simple decision. So the Torah says: :

“And when the days to be delivered were complete, and behold,
there were twins (COMPLETED) in her womb…”
(Genesis 25: 24)

Here is a complication. The Hebrew word for’ twins,’ te-o-mim, is written here ‘tomim,’ meaning ‘completed.’ The rabbis said: Each of the twin boys was born with complete personality: Esau was inclined  for a life of sin, whereas Jacob was inclined to a life of holiness. Well, if that is so, it complicates their liability.  If Esau turns to be wicked, he may claim: G-d, you have made my as such! Why should I lose my rights because of you?  And why should Jacob be rewarded for righteousness, if he was born as such?   ,
Indeed, when we have to decide about liability and responsibility, we should consider the person’s inherent personality. This alone would complicate our verdict tremendously!

5. : Who was the real firstborn?

So because we have so much confusion about the parents and the conception and the embryos, the only way to decide about the firstborn status is to look at the delivery itself. |So the Torah says:

The first came out reddish, all over like hairy mantle; they named him Esau,
and after that his brother came out, and his hand holding the heel of Esau,
and he called him Yaakov (Jacob)”

The fact was that Esau’s head came out first. So much that  “they,” everyone present, called him the firstborn..
Then, the verse said, came out Jacob.  Apparently, Esau is indeed the firstborn.

But there was an unusual complication: Jacob hand was holding firmly Esau’s heel. This is indeed the source of his name, Jacob, meaning “One |Who Holds the Heel.”. This means that THEY CAME OUT AS ONE PIECE. Are you able to tell in this case who the firstborn is?

Everyone called Esau the firstborn.  But Jacob had a legitimate claim to the title. If Esau fails to meet the standard, or if he despises the status, Jacob would have all the rights to grab what is legitimately his!

6: opposite personalities

Different characters
If the delivery left the decision open, their uprising should prove who has the right to be Abraham’s heir. \so the Torah says:

And the boys grew up ,

and Esau became one who knows hunting, a man of the field,

but Jacob was a wholesome man, abiding in tents,    (Genesis 25:27)

The rabbis insisted: each of the boys received the same loving home, eat the same food, and wa trained by the same teachers. Yet at age 13 they departed, like two budding flowers of different species. Esau seemed the better adapted to real life. He was a man of the field, a good hunter, a natural and successful leader  People loved him.  Jacob was the opposite; a tent dweller,a simple minded fellow.  Tradition says that the ‘tents’ refer to the Torah Academy of Shem.  Esau seemed a better choice for leadership. .

But the verse hints at a major fault in Esau. His hunted with his mouth, (Genesis 25: 25), implying that he cheated everyone: including his parents. Therefore a complication: ”

”And Isaac loved Esau for he had a game in his mouth
But Rebeca loved Jacob”

You can’t blame Isaac for loving Esau, who presented everything that his father was not.

And you can’t blame Rebeca for loving Jacob, who was  the opposite of what she had seen in her father’s home.   ,

While it was easy to cheat Isaac, who was old and blind, no body would ever cheat Rebeca, who grew up in a house full of master cheaters.  .

7: Bringing out the truth

Now you the reader, as a judge, can’t decide the case by the information given to you.  You would lean back now on your judgment chair and watch the rival kids ironing out the conflict between them. So far eac of the twin has a legitimate claim.  The Torah therefore bring us the episode of the lentil soup, where Esau agreed to sell his firstborn rights for a good soup.  He did not protest, he did not accuse his brother of taking advantage of his hunger. Instead, the Torah attests to the fact that :

Jacob said: “Sell me as this day your birthright.”
and Esau said: Lo, I am going to die, of what use then is his birthright to me?”
“Jacob said: Swear to as of this day. And he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.
And Jacob gave Esau bread and a pottage of lentils.
He ate, and he drunk,and he rose and he went out.

Thus did Esau despise his birthright,” (Genesis 25: 19-34)

The Torah describes Esau’s reaction in by four successive verbs: He ate, he drunk, he rose and he went out.
He had enough time to protest, but he did not. .Jacob manipulated him, yet the truth came out. \and as a judge, you would seek nothing else but the truth!

The unyielding litigant
Yet the story is not over. Esau did not conceded his case to Jacob.The convoluted plot continues, and Rebeca entices Jacob to cheat his father to get the blessing intended for Esau. \would this stolen blessing stick to Jacob? |And when Esau hears about his lost, he burst out in crying. So deeply he was hurt, the rabbis said, that the Heavenly Angelic Choir (of 70 Noahide nations) cried with him AGAINST JACOB. Esau had his own merits.  H  excelled, the rabbis said, in honoring his father and mother, more than Jacob did.

So who was really entitled to be the firstborn? Who was worthy of receiving Abraham’s blessing? So far each of the twins  did not give up his own claim. This would end up only after they face each other again, much later in the story. ,