Parashah 6: Tol’dot (History)
The rabbis claim while Avraham’s life was characterized by chessed, loving kindness, Yitzchak, Isaac’s purpose was to create a line between good and evil, represented by Ya’akov, Jacob, and Esav, Esau, requiring gevuah, strength. In Tol’dot, we discover one is not isolated from the other; strength needs loving kindness and loving kindness needs strength to function properly.
In Genesis 25, then, we are introduced to the birth of Esav and Ya’akov, the fighting twins within Rivka’s womb. In her attempt to understand why the two would be battling each other, even before birth, Rivka (Rebecca) sought out God’s help and was told by Adonai, There are two nations in your womb. From birth they will be two rival peoples. One of these peoples will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger. (Genesis 25:23) Clearly there is a message for us today, from the two sons of Rivka and Yitzchak (Isaac) – Esau would be the antagonist in the ongoing battle between the sons of Yitzchak, while Ya’akov (Jacob) would prevail as the stronger. There are two levels of teaching within the story of Esau and Ya’akov, the first message being that of integrity.
Esau was the one who displayed a grave lack of integrity, as he traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. Let’s revisit that moment: One day when Ya‘akov had cooked some stew, ‘Esav came in from the open country, exhausted, 30 and said to Ya‘akov, “Please! Let me gulp down some of that red stuff — that red stuff! I’m exhausted!” (This is why he was called Edom [red].) 31 Ya‘akov answered, “First sell me your rights as the firstborn.” 32 “Look, I’m about to die!” said ‘Esav. “What use to me are my rights as the firstborn?” 33 Ya‘akov said, “First, swear to me!” So he swore to him, thus selling his birthright to Ya‘akov. 34 Then Ya‘akov gave him bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank, got up and went on his way. Thus ‘Esav showed how little he valued his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34) In this passage we see both parties displayed a grievous lack of integrity. I doubt very much that Esau was about to die, merely for missing one day’s meal and, thus, giving away his birthright, given to him by Adonai Tzivaot, was dishonest and a denial of Adonai’s position in his life.
By a similar token, Ya’akov also displayed a lack of integrity, when he took advantage of Esau’s position and demanded his birthright in exchange for a mere bowl of stew. Why then, did God judge Esau’s lack of integrity greater than Ya’akov’s? Frankly, I’m not so sure He did.
Esau was a man of the field and forest; he was much more secure and comfortable being in the woods, hunting. Ya’akov, on the other hand, was much more a community man; he was much more comfortable being with his family, especially his mother Rivka /Rebecca.
The second lesson which comes through the story of Esau and Ya’akov, deals with whom Adonai chooses to be blessed and to receive grace. Was the fact that Esau was a non-religious sinner different from Ya’akov’s being a religious sinner?
And what do I really mean by that? Right from the beginning, Adonai saw which son of Yitzchak would love Him, in spite of their sinful natures. We see this much later, when the prophet Malachi wrote, in Chapter 1: Esav was Ya‘akov’s brother. Yet I loved Ya‘akov but hated ‘Esav. I made his mountains desolate and gave his territory to desert jackals. (Malachi 1:2,3) The line of Adonai Yeshua, The Lord Jesus, came through Ya’akov, not through Esau, who was the elder of the two boys. Adonai saw something in Ya’akov, a redemptive spirit perhaps, which he did not see either in Esau or in his descendants, the Edomites. We know Ya’akov had a heart for God, which he demonstrated many times throughout his life. However, by deceiving Esau and his father, Yitzchak, there were consequences to pay.
I believe Ya’akov needed to understand what it meant to be betrayed, as he betrayed both Esau and his father.
 Avodah Zarah 1:2,3.