|This portion starts out on an interesting note. We read in Genesis 25:21, “Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren…”
This is actually not surprising because we find all the Matriarchs even
Leah to be barren before being allowed to have children. (We know Leah
was barren because in Genesis 29 we read, “When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb…”)|
Here is the explanation recorded in the Midrash Tanchuma, Toldot 9.
“Why were the matriarchs barren…because the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to hear their prayers. The Holy One, blessed be He, had stated: They are wealthy and beautiful, and if I should also grant them sons they will not pray to Me.” In other words, “God loves the prayers of the righteous.” This is why the Matriarchs were barren.
This was more of a side note rather than the main point of this week’s observation, but I believe it is important concept we can learn from. No matter where we are in life, “God loves the prayer of the righteous.” He loves to hear from us. And if everything went the way we wanted in life, would we ever stop and talk to Him?
This isn’t to say everything will always work out the way we want. But if we know God is in control and we surrender our will for His will, in the end we will see His work accomplished in and through our life.
We know all
three of the Patriarchs were men of prayer. In fact, the tradition of
the Jewish people to pray three times a day comes from the lives of the
In the Talmud, Berachos 26b we read, “Abraham established morning prayers, as it says, ‘And Abraham arose in the morning to the place where he stood’, and ‘standing’ refers only to the act of prayer. Isaac established afternoon prayers as it says, ‘And Isaac went out to converse in the field, at evening’, and ‘speaking’ refers only to prayer. Jacob established evening prayer, as it says, ‘And he reached the place, and he slept there’, and ‘reaching’ only refers to prayer.” (This is a rephrasing of what is actually written.)
Prayer is also a reminder of the daily sacrifices that were offered up to God when the 1st and 2nd Temples were standing. This is why in Hosea 14:2, it instructs us to return to the Lord with the “fruit of our lips.” But in Hebrew it says, “Parim S’fateinu” which can be translated as “the bulls of our lips.”
As we dive deeper into this week’s portion, we will find Abraham, Isaac and Jacob important as future references of what is to come and not just as exemplary historical figures to learn from. As Nachmanaides quotes the well known saying, “The events of the ancestors are a predestined sign for their descendents.”
In this weeks portion we read of the birth of Esua or in Hebrew it would be Esav, and his brother Jacob, or Ya’akov. Before they are even born, we read that there was a struggle in the womb. Rebekah inquires of the Lord and is told, “Two nations are in your womb… the older shall serve the younger.” Right from the get-go we understand that the younger has a special place and calling.
We read of the two boys growing up, “So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.”
What does it mean that Esau was “a man of the field” but Jacob was “a mild man, dwelling in tents?”
According to the Rabbis, Esau was a “Man of the Flesh.” He was a wanderer and a worldly man. Never content in one place or with what he had.
Jacob on the other hand, as “a man of the tents” was a studier of Torah. In Rabbeinu Bahya we read that “The plain meaning of the text is that Yaakov spent his time in the tents of Shem and Ever, i.e. in their academies.” Shem, the son of Noah and Eber his grandson, were traditionally the Torah teachers of the time. Not only did Jacob study under Shem and Eber though. The word “tents” is plural, which shows us that Jacob was a seeker of wisdom and truth. He sought it from his Grandfather Abraham’s tent, as well as from the tents of other wise men he came into contact with. Jacob was a Man of Torah while Esau was a Man of the World. Jacob was a Man of the Spirit while Esau was a Man of the Flesh.
We see this become blatantly apparent when Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of red lentils. One brother is running after immediate gratification while the other is seeking the future promises.
From this point we could dive into Jacob’s so called deceptions and the stories behind the blessings and birthrights. But I want to go in a little different direction and end with this idea.
In the stories of Esau and Jacob, we see the reality of the struggle we all face in our daily lives. The struggle between the flesh and the Spirit, or the struggle between immediate gratification and the coming heavenly rewards, it’s a daily choice.
Esau in Genesis 36 is mentioned as Edom. Edom in Hebrew means red. We can associate this name with his birth, where it says he “came out reddish…” It could also point to Esau’s sale of his birthright for a bowl of “red stew.” These are all interesting ideas. But how do we bring everything together?
Edom is the same root in Hebrew as the name Adam. Adam means “ground or dirt”, because God formed man from out of the ground.
What we understand from this is Esau was like Adam, a “man of the field.”
Esau was also like Adam in the sense that they both sold their birthright, their inheritance, for food. Adam was exiled from the Garden because he despised his birthright. Esau wasn’t included in the Covenant because he despised his birthright. Adam and Esau/Edom were both “Men of the flesh—Men of the field.”
In Judaism Abraham is related with the attribute of Chesed = loving-kindness and Isaac is related to the attribute of Gevurah or Din = Strength or Justice. Jacob is the one who brings the qualities of Abraham and Isaac together. Jacob is attributed with the quality which goes by several names, Tiferet, Rachamim, Emet = Beauty, Mercy, and Truth. And while all of these could apply to what I’m about to write next, I want to stick with the idea of Jacob’s attribute as truth.
Yeshua says in John 14, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Here Yeshua shows himself to be the seed of Jacob. He was the “Star” that Balaam prophesied would come forth out of Jacob. Balaam prophesied that this “Star” would make “Edom [become] a possession” This word “possession” can also be translated as to “destroy or dispossess.”
Balaam continues to prophesy that “Edom will be destroyed…While Israel does valiantly. [For] out of Jacob One shall have dominion…” The Star that comes out of Jacob will destroy Edom and Jacob will triumph valiantly.
This is what Yeshua came to do. He is of the line of Jacob while Esau perpetuates the line of Adam. These two spirits are at war with each other. We can feel this war within our own lives. Rav Shaul, also known as, the Apostle Paul understood exactly what Yeshua accomplished. In 1 Corinthians 15 he explains the war that started in the Garden, continued with Esau and Jacob, and is present even in our modern time. He writes, “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” In Galatians he writes, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another…” Just as the first Adam is to the Last Adam, or Esau is to Jacob, or the flesh is to Spirit. They are all contrary to one another! Yeshua came from the line of Jacob to destroy the line of the flesh, which in this case are represented by Adam and Esau. 1 John 3 tells us “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
We all have a
daily choice to walk as Yeshua or walk in our natural carnal nature.
Will we walk in the works of the flesh or in the fruits of the Spirit?
Yeshua came that we could walk in Spirit and separate ourselves from our
natural “1st Adam” state of creation. As Rav Shaul states so eloquent and profoundly, “‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.
The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the
Lord from heaven…as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we
shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” We shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man! What a beautiful promise! That “we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”|
Our daily choice is whether we will follow the Spirit of Esau = our fleshly carnal nature or will we follow the Spirit of Jacob = our renewed minds set on things above. This is what it means in Colossians 1, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Praise God, He has delivered and conveyed us into His kingdom! Our job now is to convey this invitation to others and to daily choose to walk in the Spirit of Truth, which is the Spirit of Jacob and ultimately the Spirit of our Master Yeshua!