“And the children struggled within her.” – Genesis 25:22, JPS 1917 Tanach
Esau was the firstborn, while Jacob was born grasping Esau’s heel. This is how Jacob received his name, Yaakov, 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 those values that Esau would symbolically stamp his foot on, those values would be the very ones Jacob would cherish” (Akeidat Yitzchak 23:1:10, sefaria.org).
According to Akeidat Yitzchak, 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 firstborn, so that the legacy of Abraham, replete with the qualities of chesed (kindness), gevurah (moral restraint), and tiferes (harmony) would be continued.
Another rendering of the phrase, “sins of the heels,” is in 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). How much more so, should we also be concerned for the sins that we might otherwise overlook, without doing teshuvah (repentance) or working towards self-improvement in those areas of our lives.
“Speak unto the children of Israel: When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to commit a trespass against the L-RD, and that soul be guilty; then they shall confess their sin which they have done.”
Numbers 5:6-7, JPS 1917 Tanach
According to Rambam (Maimonides), this verse is the basis of the importance of confession (vidui), within the context of teshuvah (repentance). “And shall make reparation in full” (Numbers 5:7); this latter part of the pasuk (verse) denotes reparations made to others, if the aveirah (transgression) is against another person. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for reparation is from the same shoresh (root), “shuv,” as teshuvah, meaning to return. Repentance is a return to H’Shem (the L-RD). “Let us return unto the L-RD” (Hosea 5:15, JPS 1917 Tanach).
The Mishkan along with the Levitical system of offerings were meant to restore the relationship of the people with HShem. A restored relationship with HShem begins with vidui (confession), whereby we confess our sins to Him; additionally, we return to Him by not making the same transgression again. We must also increase our mitzvoth, spending more time engaged with G-dly pursuits, and less time in that which could be considered frivolous.
Unless we are conscious of leading a godly life, we may not even realize that a diminished connection to G-d may be a result of our own lack of mitzvot (good deeds). “Your iniquities have separated between you and your G-d (Isaiah 59:2, JPS 1917 Tanach). In order to experience G-d’s presence in our lives, then we need to approach Him in righteousness. If we have not been cognizant of what He expects from us, then we need to educate ourselves, according to His ways. Now is a good time to start.