Toldot 5771

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Charlene Thrope

Although I won’t always admit it, I love my family. And although we are all very different individuals, from our religious observance to our academic interests, we are extremely close. In fact, I think our diversity is what allows us to be so close. Because I went to a different high school than my brother and sisters, I never had to deal with a teacher liking me more – or less – than an older sibling. Because my sisters are much older than I am, we never fought over clothes. Because we are all so different, it is almost impossible for my parents to compare us.

Likewise, Jacob and Esau are very different: Esau is red and hairy, and Jacob is not; Esau loves the outdoors, and Esau prefers to stay inside. Jacob and Esau have different appearances, professions, and priorities. Instead of embracing their differences, these brothers are in constant conflict. Their fighting is encourages by their parents, who clearly play favorites. Rebekah helps Jacob trick Isaac into giving him Esau’s blessing, and Esau chooses an additional wife that he knows he parents will approve of. Jacob and Esau are seriously lacking in brotherly love.

Before they are even born, God tells Rebekah, “Two nations are in your womb, two separate peoples shall issue from your body; one people shall be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Rebekah knew her children would be different, and she chooses to favor the younger son. God never predicts that Esau and Jacob will become rivals and their descendants will form rival nations. The nations of Esau and Jacob could have become brother nations – separate, yet still friendly. Instead, they fight for years and are not reunited for many years.

We, like Rebekah, often assume that differences – between siblings, friends, or fellow board members – will result in conflict. But if we embrace this diversity, we can use it to strengthen our relationships and create a society that values tolerance, understanding, and pluralism.