The Next Generation
Just when you thought that the story of Ishmael
He returns for a curtain call.
This weeks Torah portion concludes with
Esau, elder son of Isaac, marrying the daughter of Ishmael,
Hmmm, what does that do to the gene pool, and
what are its effects today?
But lets not jump ahead of ourselves.
Following the chronicles of Ishmaels life
at the end of last weeks portion, todays Torah portion
begins with the chronicles of Isaac: And these are the
chronicles of Isaac son of Abraham
the story of
Esau and Jacob, children of Isaac and Rebecca.
And (these are the chronicles) emphasizes
that the chronicles of Isaac are not a separate story but an
extension and continuation of Ishmaels chronicles. In
other words, the story of Ishmael and his children continues
with Esau and Jacob.
What is the story of Esau and Jacob?
The Torah tells us, that Rebeccas pregnancy
was a difficult one. The children clashed inside her.
Confused she asks of G-d: Why is this happening to me?
G-ds reply: Two nations are in your womb. Two governments
will separate from inside you. The upper hand will go from one
nation to the other. The greater one will serve the younger.
The twins Esau and Jacob are born the father
of these two nations. Esau is the elder of the two. The brothers
are diametrically different characters. Esau is a skilled
hunter, a man of the field. Jacob was a wholesome
man, who sat in the tents - a scholar who dwelled in the
tents of study.
The story continues: One day Esau comes home exhausted
from hunting in the field. Jacob is simmering a stew, and famished
Esau asks for a swallow of the red stuff (he is
therefore called Edom, which means red). First
sell me your birthright [first born rights] and then I
will give you to eat. Esau agrees. Here Im about
to die, what good is a birthright to me? He sells his
birthright to Jacob and in return gets his meal.
Strange story. How could honest Jacob, Jacob the
scholar, manipulate his brother for the birthright? G-d decided
that Esau be the first-born! Additionally, the birthright is
a spiritual right; can it be sold for
But the story gets stranger yet.
Rebecca overhears Isaac telling Esau that he wants
to bless him. When Esau goes out to the field to bring back
a meal for Isaac before blessing him, Rebecca tells her son
Jacob what she overheard, and she says to him that he should
go to his father Isaac and pretend that he is Esau and receive
the blessings. Rebecca prepares a tasty meal and dresses Jacob
in Esaus garments. She places animal skins on his arms
and neck, so that when Isaac (who was blind at the time) would
touch him, he would think that Jacob is Esau.
Jacob approaches his father. Father
he says. Yes, who are you, my son? Isaac asks. Jacob
replies: It is I, Esau your first born. I have done as
you asked. Sit up and eat the game I trapped, so that your soul
will bless me. Isaac asks Jacob to approach him. Let
me touch you, my son. Are you really Esau or not? When
Isaac touches him he says: The voice is the voice of Jacob,
but the hands are the hands of Esau. Isaac then proceeds
to bless him with the most powerful blessings, May G-d
grant you the dew of heaven
Just when Isaac finishes blessing Jacob and Jacob
leaves him, Esau returns only to discover that Jacob had stolen
his blessings. Your brother, Isaac tells him, came
with deceit and he already took your blessing. Esau lets
out a very loud and bitter scream. Isnt he truly
named Jacob (Yaakov). He went behind my back (akav)
twice. First he took my birthright and now he took my blessing.
This incident, documented in such detail, is absolutely
bizarre. How could Rebecca and Jacob so blatantly deceive husband
and father Isaac?! Can blessings be won through deceit? Even
if Rebecca was convinced that Jacob deserved the blessings,
why did she not attempt to communicate that to Isaac? And what
was Isaac thinking; is he not a tzaddik who knew what he was
doing? The questions go on and on.
The Torah portion continues with Rebecca sending
Jacob away out of fear that Esau will kill him. At Rebecca and
Isaacs bidding, Jacob leaves and goes to Charan to find
Finally this weeks portion concludes with
Esau following suit. Hearing that Isaac is displeased with the
Canaanite girls - and therefore sent Jacob to find a wife among
Abrahams family - Esau goes to Ishmael and marries
Machlath daughter of Abrahams son Ishmael, a sister of
Nebayoth [Ishmaels eldest son].
So what is the story?
Recall, that this entire account of Esau and Jacob
are the chronicles of Isaac son of Abraham which
is a continuation of the chronicles of Ishmael and his children.
The story begins with Abraham, man of passionate
faith. He sets the tone and establishes a relationship with
G-d. He educates his children Ishmael and Isaac in this spirit,
and they carry on the faith that Abraham taught them, each in
their own way. Ishmael is excessive and untempered chesed
(passion and love). Isaac is gevurah (discipline), the
antithesis of chesed, that balances and channels the
love of Abraham.
Ishmael in his wildness wanders away,
only to return years later when he does teshuvah. On
the face of all his brethren he fell (end of last weeks
portion, Chayei Sarah) Ishmaels excessive faith
must be tempered with the appropriate measure of discipline.
When Ishmael did teshuvah and was humbled (fell),
he is elevated (tikkun).
(see at length last weeks issue).
So, if Ishmael does teshuvah, why are we
still having problems?
Because the forces unleashed have affected the
universe and we still need to refine the world. Even after Abraham
began the process of transforming the material world into a
G-dly home, but that was just the beginning; even after all
Abraham accomplished, the world is far from its intended purpose.
And so the story continues and these
are the chronicles of Isaac. The next generation continues
the process began by Abraham.
Following the struggles between chesed
and gevurah in Abrahams times, the new chapter
carries this over to the next level. Just like Abrahams
chesed becomes excessive in Ishmael, the gevurah
(severity, discipline) of Isaac becomes excessive in Esau. Esau
is a warrior, a man of the field. As Isaac tells him: You
shall live by your sword.
Jacob, on the other hand is a man of peace, a wholesome
scholar dwelling in the tents of study.
The stage is set for another confrontation. Esau
and Jacob are two nations that initially cannot
co-exist in peace. They represent two forces in each of our
lives and in the world as a whole. Esau symbolizes the body,
the material world, whose untamed elements need to be conquered.
Jacob symbolizes the soul, the spiritual world. Initially these
two worlds do not co-exist. Matter and spirit are at war with
each other. When one rises the other falls. Yet
they need each other they are twins. The
vulnerable soul without an aggressive body would not be able
to survive in this harsh world. Each of us needs to have a warrior
dimension to protect and defend against the difficult forces
of material existence. But the body must have a soul within,
and the soul must be the directing force in life. The
greater one the powerful body will serve the younger
[gentler] soul. Your body has to be a vehicle for your
soul not the other way around. If the body and material drives
are in control then the gevurah of the warrior becomes
How do you reconcile and integrate body and soul,
matter and spirit G-d and the universe? The soul must
train and teach the body to sublimate itself so that together
they can both serve and fulfill their purpose on Earth. The
only way to relieve the tension between them, without compromising
either, is to spiritualize the material.
But the body has its own agenda; it is not ready
to listen to the souls wisdom. Its busy
hunting, surviving in the best way it knows how. The solution
is that the soul must satisfy and nourish the body on its (the
bodys) terms and slowly direct and align it to a higher
goal. The soul feeds the body with stew and gratifies
the bodys immediate needs, with the intention to harness
and channel the bodys powerful spirit (birthright) toward
its Divine calling.
The soul must dress itself up in the garments
of the material world in order to refine the world and channel
the hidden blessings and strengths of the material world. Thus
Jacob dresses in Esaus garments to receive the blessings.
The soul is not taking the blessings away from the body; it
only protects them so that the body not destroy them, and the
soul uses them to help train and refine the body until the time
when the body can co-exist peacefully with the soul, as one
seamless harmony - The voice is the voice
of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
Isaac looking into the depths of Esaus soul,
felt that Esau might be ready. But Rebecca, his mother, saw
that the time had not yet arrived. The world (Esau) was not
yet refined, and she realized that Jacob would have to harness
Jacob introduces the third dimension called Tiferet,
beauty, compassion. Following the chesed (love) of Abraham
and Ishmaels excess of chesed, and Isaacs
gevurah and Esaus excess of gevurah, comes
Jacob the third and central pillar, that synthesizes
and fuses the two in a healthy balance.
Esau in his own way tries to balance his excessive
aggression (gevurah) by marrying the daughter of Ishmael
(chesed). Machalot is her name, which means forgiveness,
signifying the forgiving of sins upon marriage.
The implications of these chronicles today are
Following the confrontations between Ishmael and
Isaac, Ishmaels banishment and ultimately his teshuvah,
the next stage begins with Esau and Jacob joining the scene.
We now have before us Abraham, father of all nations, Ishmael
father of the Arab/Muslim world, Esau, father of the Roman/Christian/Western
world and Jacob, father of the Jewish world.
Though Ishmael does teshuvah, the world
is not yet refined. Thus we need to go through the Esau-Jacob
battle the war of two nations to achieve balance
and harmony between G-d and the universe. The Romans destroying
the Holy Temple, and then the wars of Christianity against Judaism
imposing their religion by the sword
are all manifestations of Esaus gevurah approach in his
battles with the world.
While this battle gets under way, Esau attempts
to join forces with Ishmael, only to backfire. The Midrash tells
us that Esaus intentions in marrying Ishmaels daughter
was to then to ensnare Ishmael in the following plot:
You Esau said to Ishmael kill
your brother Isaac. I will kill my brother Jacob. Then we will
become one nation, remaining sole heirs to all of Abrahams
legacy and property! Ishmael refused: Am I then like Cain
who killed his brother?! No, I will not do as you suggest.
Esaus intention was to then kill Ishmael, and he would
be left the sole heir.
What a wedding it must have been!
Though Esau and Ishmael join hands,
this marriage is far from simple. Ishmael refuses to participate
in Esaus plot against Isaac and Jacob. This sets the stage
for later wars to come between Ishmael and Esau.
Ultimately the only healthy way to refine Ishmael
and Esau (excessive chesed and gevurah) is through the balance
of Jacobs tiferet, which is driven by humility and selflessness.
Chesed and gevurah as great as they can be, are driven by their
own particular personality features. Tiferet is connected to
bittul. Tiferet is the middle pillar, that runs up and down
from ketter to malchut, and thus, like the spine holds up the
entire structure. Tiferet is dedication and commitment to G-d
and His will, and that is what allows it to transcend and unite
the opposing personalities of love and aggression (chesed and
So just when you thought that it was safe to go
back into the water
Ishmael returns for a curtain call.
Abraham, Sarah, Ishmael, Isaac, Esau and Jacob
all the players and characters are in place. The question
is: Are we?
You can now order the tape of Rabbi Jacobsons
elaborate class on this topic.
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WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL THING YOU CAN DO
IN RESPONSE TO SEPTEMBER 11?
Join us in creating a passionate spiritual
revolution for the good.
As passions of violence have been released
on us, against humanity, our most powerful response is to counter
with a passionate revolution of purpose, with no less passion
and drive than the evil being waged against us.
This is our mission at the Meaningful Life
 See Klei Yokor at the end of last weeks portion.
 This weeks portion, Genesis 27:40.
 See Rashi Vayishlach, Genesis 33:14.
 Talmud Yerushalmi Bikkurim 3:3. Bereishis Rabba
 Midrash Or Haafeilah at the end of our portion
(cited in Torat Shleimah note 27). See also Bereishis Rabba
67: 8. Midrash Tehillim 14:2.
 See Abarbanel, Mayonei Yeshua (intro to Daniel),