After twenty years of childlessness, Rivka ( Rebecca)and Yitzchak ( Isaac)are blessed with twin boys. Yet even this much awaited pregnancy is difficult:“ And the children struggled within her, and she said, “If [it be] so, why am I [like] this?” And she went to inquire of HaShem.”( Genesis 25:22)
The Yalkut Shimoni explains that “ Whenever she would pass a house of prayer or house of study, Yaacov (Jacob )would struggle to come out … and when she passed a house of idol-worship, Esav (Esau) would struggle to come out. They were fighting over the inheritance of the two worlds , the physical world in the here and now and the spiritual “world to come”.
Rivka is then told in a prophetic way, an astounding piece of information:
And HaShem said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from your innards, and one kingdom will become mightier than the other kingdom, and the elder will serve the younger (Genesis 25: 23).
She understood that this was not just about two children in her womb. Rather these children would represent two world views and create two conflicting nations. Esav and Yaacov were not only two brothers, they were to be two conflicting spiritual paths in the unfolding of human history.
Esav will stop at nothing to overcome his brother Yaacov ,and this battle ,we are told would continue until the end of days. We , in fact, read the following regarding the descendants of Esav, Amalek and his people:
“And HaShem said unto Moshe: ‘Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. ‘And Moshe built an altar… And he said: ‘the hand upon the throne of HaShem: HaShem will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’” (Exodus 17:14-16)
Moshe is saying that “the hand (of Amalek is) upon the throne of HaShem” and the word for throne (Kiseh spelled Chaf Samech Aleph) is written without the Aleph and is pronounced here as Kes. The “Aleph” of G-d’s throne is missing. Esav can not contend with the Oneness of G-d’s rule. The Aleph ( which equals one) of His throne must be covered.
Mankind has a continual battle with the trap of shortcuts. It began with Adam and Eve when they were put into the garden to protect and care for the garden. They were given one restriction, one prohibition, and that was to avoid eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yet instead of tending and growing with the garden they wanted the fruit instantly.
Man has a tendency to get so focused on his desired solutions that he loses faith in, and patience with, the process of achieving that solution. Sometimes we are so focused on the destination that we forget the journey. We are so clear on where we want to get to, that we judge the methods of getting there by how instantly they can achieve success. We may have a deep sense of the awesome power of redemption, yet it seems its very awesomeness makes it almost intangible. We prefer to deal with and revere the here and now, things that we can understand. The tortuous and circuitous paths of redemption become too complicated for some. It is at that point that men and women begin to make people and activities “idols”. They begin to revere these things in order to achieve shortcuts to their desired goal. Political leaders or religious leaders become the ultimate solution and savior until they fail and are succeeded by another. This is the spiritual legacy of Esav.
All this was inferred within the names given to these two children.
Rabbi Yitzchak Sher, ( author of the Leket Sichot Mussar) describes the nature of Esav, as opposed to the nature of Yaakov.
The name “Esav” comes from the same Hebrew root as “ ASUI”י meaning finished or complete. What that implies is that the “Esav” spiritual approach does not feel a need to grow and develop. He is only focused on the “here and now” and that is all that impacts him. Quenching his hunger is more important than eternal birthrights. A focus on a G-d that demands obedience and responsibility was a primal threat to his being.
Yaacov’s name , on the other hand ,comes from the word le-akov meaning to follow or to walk forward . That is to say that the “Yaacov” spiritual approach demanded a constant path of growth , always working on becoming more of what one needs to be. Yaacov may fail and flounder but his courage and determination to move forward is what will help him achieve his destiny of becoming the ‘ Israel” he is meant to be.
The struggle between those two spiritual approaches will continue throughout time. Only at the end of time will that struggle be completed as we read in the book of Ovadia:
“And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the Lord shall have the kingdom.”( Obadaya1:21)
That is to say only when the redeemers will judge the mountain of Esau and release the world from his spiritual influence, will Hashem be understood as being the Ruler of all mankind.