Jacob and Esau: Where does our own weakness fall?

What happens when we are forced to embrace our weaknesses? What happens when we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and say "I am not ready"? Worse, what happens when we have to look at those who we look up to and admit that we are not as strong as they would like to be.

Trauma is just that. It is an evil rock that lodges itself in your chest and weighs you down. It unfortunately plays a role in every decision you make, eating at your every attempt at survival, and it sometimes has no regard to any of the healing that you try so hard to work towards. It holds you back and it parks you in its lot, pushing you to face everything that you hope to ignore because life would be infinitely easier if it just had never happened.

I often find myself looking back at the story of Jacob and Esav. How Jacob, being the weaker of the brothers, resorts to cheating and lying to claim what he believes to be his. I look at his mother Rebecca, who enables the deceit because of her own belief of what she feels is the right course. She helps Jacob deceive Isaac, the love of her life, her reason for being, because in her heart, she knows that Jacob is the emotionally stronger one of the two to carry the weight that comes with the birthright. How far do we go to get what we want or deserve; how much are we willing to sacrifice and how much pain are we willing to give up to stand for what we believe to be the right course? There are many who say that Jacob and Rebecca’s deceit go far beyond what Jewish law considers ethical; they had no right to claim a birthright that did not belong to Jacob. Esav’s impulsivity, his thirst for blood on the fields nourished the family, and most importantly, he was the one to be born first. The facts are straight forward: it doesn’t matter what Jacob or Rebecca believe is right, it was his right, and taking it from him was against everything we as Jews should stand for.

Here is the thing though. I relate to Jacob’s weakness; his need to be a spiritual man who would choose to remain in his tent, building on his commitment to Gd. The Torah tells us about his struggle for survival stemming all the way back to his relationship to Esav in-utero. His desperate need for survival against a brother who was stronger. The rest of his story does not go without pain, as we see him be forced to leave his family, and witness his own family’s struggle as his own daughter becomes a victim of unbearable violence, followed by stories of brutal family vengeance. I also relate to Rebecca, the mother of two contrasting children, who seeks guidance from Gd throughout a difficult pregnancy as she feels within her the struggle between two siblings that are destined to mark a split in family dynamics. I relate to the life of trying to make decisions that are impossible; how do we protect our children, how do we give them the life that we desperately want for them, and how far are we willing to sacrifice ourselves in order to do so.

The truth of the matter is, there is no way to navigate a life without sacrifice, and that includes embracing our own shortcomings and weaknesses. Seldom will we find the right answer; the ethical answer to what challenges face us. We will hear others and their opinions, and we will cry and struggle with trying to fit what is expected from us while staying true to what we believe. Especially in motherhood, we will attempt to move mountains, we will make mistakes, and we will have to live with them. The question is how to live with them, grow from them, take those weaknesses and turn them into lessons. Maybe Jacob and Rebecca were wrong, but maybe, just maybe, their actions came from a place of fear, of self-preservation. That is me. Maybe my weakness is self-preservation and maybe I am destined to be Rebecca, and I make no apologies.


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