Posts Tagged ‘birthright’

Jacob And Esau: A Divergence Of Destiny

November 28, 2011

Toledot, the Torah portion read this past Sabbath from the Book of Genesis is translated as ‘generations’ or descendants’. It relates the stories of Isaac, son of Abraham, his wife Rebekkah and their twin sons Jacob and Esau, born to the couple in their later years. In the illustrations above, entitled ‘The Beleaguered Blessing’, I have envisioned the adult Jacob and Esau as two halves of a playing card contrasted with their aging parents. Motifs on the card include their assigned sefirot and symbols of their destiny. Jacob is wearing the faux hairy arm deviously fashioned by his mother Rebecca. She meant to trick his visually challenged father Isaac into bestowing Esau’s birthright (paternal inheritance) on her favorite son. Jacob is holding a set of tefillin (phylacteries) to indicate his future patriarchal role as a spiritual leader and a writing quill that symbolizes his scholarly leanings. Esau is shown with bow and arrows holding the bowl of lentil stew that he has unwittingly traded to Jacob for his birthright. He also holds a golden eagle on his arm, signifying the future generations that will become Edom and later the beginning of the Roman Empire.

This parashah appeals to the mother in me who watched two sons grow up, marveling at their unique qualities, yet often wondering how children of the same parents who exhibit similar physical characteristics can evolve so differently from each other in personality and character? If there is an answer to this question, I guess it would be but a piece of the puzzle we are given to understand our lives and where we fit in a universal narrative whose outcome will forever mystify us.

These images are further detailed in the AfterImages section of my book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) which can be purchased directly from the publisher: or from Amazon, where you will also find several reviews.