The Struggle Within

parasha Toldos 5783

And the children struggled within her.” – Genesis 25:22, JPS

Esau was the first born, while Jacob was born grasping Esau’s heel. This is how Jacob received his name, meaning heel, or supplanter, because, eventually, he supplanted the rights of the firstborn. Additionally, “Jacob’s holding on to the heel of Esau may symbolize that values which Esau would stamp his foot on, would be the very ones Jacob would cherish” (Akeidat Yitzchak 23:1:10,

This appears to be a reference to the pasuk (verse), “Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my supplanters [heels] compasseth me about” (Psalm 49:6, JPS), concerning King David’s fear that the sins of his heels, those that most people disregard, i.e., “trample upon,” would prevent him from entering Olam Haba (the World-to-Come).

Akeidat Yitzchak applies the same verse in a different manner, implying that Esau would tread upon the very values that Jacob cherished, the values that Jacob emulated in his father Isaac, the same values of Abraham. Jacob was destined to supplant Esau in regard to the rights of the first born, so that the legacy of Abraham, replete with the qualities of chesed (kindness), gevurah (moral restraint) and emes (truth) would be continued.

Yalkut Shimoni infers that before they were born, Jacob and Esau were struggling inside the womb, for the inheritance of the two worlds: Olam HaZeh (This World), and Olam Haba (the World to Come). According to this rendering, the struggle was a cosmic struggle (Gur Ayeh), with the victor claiming the greater inheritance, Olam HaBa.

This struggle is reflected by the internal battle within ourselves: the conflict between the yetzer tov (good inclination) and the yetzer harah (the evil inclination). It is a challenge faced by every individual, to aspire towards the good, while rejecting the bad (Isaiah 7:15). We are bound to face many nisyanos (trials) in our lives, so that our souls may be refined.


Author: tzvifievel

My focus is on the synthesis of psychology, religion, and writing. I have undergraduate degrees in Psychology and English. Additionally, I hold a certificate in Rubenfeld Synergy (psychophysical re-education).

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