'It is well known that Esau hates Ya'akov'

This week's Torah portion explains why Jews have suffered for over 2000 years, and what anti-Semitism is all about.

Joseph Frager, MD ,

Rachael Cerrotti/Flash 90

Parshat Toldot tells us rather explicitly why the Jews have suffered for over 2000 years. It does not make one feel any better about it but it is Torah from Sinai. It does not excuse those who cause us to suffer either. It just explains it.

The hatred is not rational or logical. Our Sages call it a Halacha (Torah Rule). They do not call it a tendency or a happenstance. Unfortunately, it is part of the Universe we were given. It is part and parcel of G-d's running the world. In Parshat Toldot it states, "Eisav hated Yaakov because of the blessing with which his Father blessed him." Rashi says, "he will console himself for losing the blessings by killing you".

This is a culmination of the Prophecy given to Rivka, "Two nations are in your womb and two kingdoms will separate from within you. One government will be mightier than the other but the greater one will serve the smaller one." Rashi explains, "They will not be equally great. When one rises the other falls" Rashi also says that on the first part of the Posuk, "two nations are in your womb" relates to the Roman Emperor Antoninus and the Compiler of the Mishne, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi. This point is striking because the relationship between the two was mutual respect and admiration rather than hatred.

I will try to explain this along the way.It is partially explained by the fact that the prophecy to Rivka states that if Yaakov would fulfill his goal in life through Torah study and faithfulness to the Torah (which Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi exemplified) then Eisav would be subjugated to him. The point is very simple when Jews as a Nation are faithful to G-d and his Torah , Eisav will not be a problem. When the Jewish People sin in G-d's eyes they will suffer at the hands of Eisav. Certainly, the take home lesson for the Jews the world over is to run away from sin and run to the Torah. It is also why Yaakov fled Be'er Sheva and his brother's wrath and spent 14 years at the Yeshiva of Shem and Eiver. The Torah study protected him from Eisav.

This is a very important point in the modern era as well. We need Torah Study to protect us. He then went to Charan to find a wife. By settling in with Lavan, he added an additional layer of protection because Eisav was no doubt fearful of attacking Lavan, his treacherous and powerful uncle at his stronghold. Even though we know that Lavan wanted to destroy Yaakov (from the Hagaddah, "The Aramean sought to destroy my father") his stay with Lavan prevented an attack by Eisav. Yaakov spent 20 years with Lavan. He was attacked by Eisav when he left Lavan on his way back to Israel. The relationship between Antoninus and Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi indicates that at times albeit rare it is possible that Eisav and Yaacov will coexist in Peace.

The Bal HaTurim on the Posuk, "Two nations are in your womb" mentions that the Gematria of these three Hebrew words equals the numerical value of the Hebrew for "This is Rabbi Yehuda and Antoninus". The Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer in Parshat Vayechi mentions that Eisav's head but not his body ended up being buried in the Mearat Hamachpelah. In Parshat VaYishlach 35:29 Eisav and Yaacov both buried Yitzchak. So at times it seems (albeit rare) Eisav's "head" was working to control his "bodily and visceral hatred of Yaacov" which was never rational. An example of one of these historical moments was the relationship between the Abarbanel and Ferdinand and Isabella. The Abarbanel was asked after spending many years in the Palace whether his Political maneuvering was worthed and he answered it was not. This was because he could not prevent the Inquisition from occurring despite his very close relationship with the King and Queen. Unfortunately, this is true of many of our relationships with Eisav.

What the Abarbanel did not realize at the time was that his financing of Columbus (he was Ferdinand's and Isabella's Financier and Treasurer) would lead to the discovery of the "Land of the Free" America. His political efforts therefore were not in vain. This is the world we live in. It is extremely important to be involved in Politics as was Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi and the Abarbanel because one does not know where the salvation may come from. Eisav is a very difficult character to work with. There will be moments when our efforts will be fruitful and other times when they will be futile. Our job is to try. G-d, Almighty will do the rest.