|After twenty years of marriage without children, Yitschak's prayers to HaShem are answered and Rivkah conceives twins, Esav and Ya’akov. The pregnancy is extremely painful. HaShem reveals to Rivkah that the suffering is a microcosmic prelude to the worldwide conflict that will rage between the two great nations descended from these twins -- Rome and Israel. |
Esav is born first, and then Ya’akov, holding onto Esav's heel. As they grow up, the contrast between the twins becomes apparent: Esav is a hunter, a man of the field, of the physical world, whereas Ya’akov sits in the tents of Torah developing his soul. On the day of the funeral of their grandfather Avraham, Ya’akov is cooking lentil soup, the traditional mourners’ meal. Esav rushes in, ravenous from a hard day's hunting, and sells his birthright (and its concomitant spiritual responsibilities) for a bowl of soup, clearly demonstrating his unworthiness for the position of the firstborn.
Yitschak tries to escape to Egypt when a famine strikes Canaan, but HaShem reminds him that because of the Akeida (where he was offered up as a sacrifice) he has become holy and must remain in the Holy Land. Instead he relocates to Gerar in the land of the Plishtim, where, to protect Rivkah, he has to say that she is his sister. Yitschak arouses jealousy when he becomes immensely wealthy, and Avimelech the king asks him to leave.
Yitschak re-digs three wells dug by his father, prophetically alluding to the three Batey Mikdash (Temples) which will be built in the future. Avimelech, seeing the blessings that HaShem has bestowed on Yitschak, makes a treaty with him. When Yitschak senses the end of his days approaching, he summons Esav to give Esav his blessings. Rivkah, acting on a prophetic command that the blessings must go to Ya’akov, arranges for Ya’akov to impersonate his brother and receive the blessings. When Esav in a rage of frustration complains to his father that his brother has bought his birthright, Yitschak realises that the birthright has been bestowed correctly on Ya’akov who has valued its responsibilities rather than its privileges, and confirms the blessings he has given. Esav vows to kill his brother, and so Rivkah sends Ya’akov to her brother Lavan where he may find a suitable wife.