The rivalry between Jacob and Esau began even as they were in their mother’s womb.
Despite Rebecca and Isaac’s great efforts to conceive, Rebecca began to wonder whether becoming pregnant had been worthwhile (Gen. 25:22). The rivalry between the brothers persisted even as they were born (Gen. 25:26), and then continued after they were born (Gen. 25:34).
Two very different boys emerged – one who was rough and amoral, the other gentle and passive (Gen. 25:27).
How are we to understand this rivalry and the various narratives that describe it? What was the purpose of the ongoing tension between Jacob and Esau, one of whom emerged as the father of the Jewish nation, while the other took on the role as his eternal antagonist?
With the help of both early and later commentaries on Parshat Toldot, Rabbi Dunner offers an intriguing picture that goes far beyond sibling rivalry, and presents us with a view of the human condition that explains good an evil, and the potential in every human leading towards the greatest triumph or the unthinkable alternative.