Four characters=Four worlds

Each of the four starring characters in the Jacob story has his own attitude towards this world and the world to come.

Rabbi Yonatan Kirsch ,

Rabbi Yoni Kirsch
Rabbi Yoni Kirsch
Yair Yulis

In Parshat Toldot which we read this past Shabbat, there are four main players featured. I would like to suggest an insight into these characters and point out the four different 'spiritual agendas' that each represents. This may help explain some of the details that are illustrated by the parsha.

We can divide the insights into 'olam hazeh', this world, and 'olam habah', the world to come.

1. Esav: Olam Hazeh over Olam Habah

Esav was born fully mature, says the Midrash He was full of hair, and his teeth and gums were like an adult's. His complexion was red/ruddy and he was ready for this world. That is alluded to by the name Esav. It comes from ''asuy'', meaning done or completed (Berishit 25:25, Rashi).

Unlike a newborn baby, he did not need time to adjust to this world. It seemed like a perfect fit, for example he was a successful hunter. Chazal teach us (see Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer 24, Targum Yonatan 27:15) that Esav had special clothing. In fact, these were the garments of Adam from Gan Eden. This symbolized that to Esav, the world had already reached its final goal. Everything was perfect in the world. We learn this out by analyzing the interesting questions he would ask his father, Yitzhak. "How does one maaser salt and teven" displays that in his mind, the entire world, including the waste products of nature, is all fixed in its resources.

There is no spiritual uplift possible in this attitude, and at some point, Esav gets fatigued. At this point he lowers himself into evil sinning. In the portion that relates his selling his first born rights to Yaakov (the bechorah), Rashi explains that Esav knew that he would not be able to keep the level required of the first born; ie, they were the group who originally were to be designated as the servants in the Mikdash. Instead, Esav loses everything.

2. Yaakov: Olam Hazeh~Olam Habah

Yaakov has a completely different approach to life. From the first day of his life he tries to grab onto Esav's ankle (ibid 25:26). This symbolizes that he is a proactive doer, always yearning and striving to better himself. He is showing his progeny the right attitude and behavior. Therefore, he spends his days in the Beit Midrash studying Torah and looking for the World to Come (Rashi 25:27) His means are hard work, and constantly looking beyond what our human eyes can see.

Now, let's look at his parent's world view......

3. Yitzhak: Olam Habah

Since the Akeidah, Yitzhak is called a ''pure sacrifice'' or olah t'mima. Therefore, unlike Avraham and Yaakov, he will not marry a maidservant or ''shifchah'' (Rashi 25:26) Unlike them, he will not leave Eretz Yisroel, even for one minute (Rashi 26:2) He is 100% pure and is figuratively blind, at least to certain things. The blindness began during the Akeida when the angels cried into his eyes (Rashi 27:1)

His only vision is of the higher/deeper sides of reality, as is the vision of the angels. That may explain why he wanted to give Esav the first born blessing.

4. Rivka: Olam Hazeh

Rivka grew up in a place and family of liars and cheaters. She was familiar with this and could not be tricked so easily. She recognizes Esav for who he really is, with his unvirtuous wives, and evil actions. So she is practical as a result, and is willing to act and take a risk. She is responsible for the scheme of getting the blessing for Yaakov; she will change his clothing and cook the appropriate food for the ceremony, in order to deceive.

Of course, this does not mean that she is not in tune with the Higher World, but she clearly understands that the blessing must go to Yaakov and his descendants. The Nation of Israel must be established by Yaakov's approach to life, or it simply won't succeed. This is very similar to Sarah, in her banishment of Yishmoel.

Rabbi Yonatan Kirsch was born in NJ but grew up in Ginot Shomron after his parents moved to Israel. He teaches at the Hesder Yeshiva in Sderot, where he lives with his wife and family, after receiving his semicha from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He is author of the book "Ma'alot Hamikve", published by Dabri Shir, and served as a combat soldier, is a certified tour guide.



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