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Parshat Toldot - "But the children struggled in her womb (Genesis 25:22)."

24/11/2022 09:10:20 AM


At the outset of Parshat Toldot, we read that after a period of infertility, Rebecca became pregnant, and the children to-be struggled in her womb. The Torah text goes on to suggest that these two children represented nations to come and which would be in conflict with each other. Soon enough, Jacob entered the world. He would epitomize the Jewish people. Two portions later, Jacob is also known as Israel, the ultimate name for our people, our heritage, and our land. Esau emerged into the world first. He would epitomize nations in history that would be in conflict with Israel, such as Greece. Rome, and other nations which quarreled with Israel. 

A beautiful commentary suggests that the conflict between brothers or nations need not be the case. In one particular Midrash, our ancient Sages suggest that the descendants of Jacob and Esau were Rabbi Judah the Prince, a leader of the Jewish people, and Antoninus, a Roman emperor. Although their respective nations were in conflict, Rabbi Judah and Antoninus had a deep and abiding friendship. Notwithstanding their obvious differences, they demonstrated connection, friendship, understanding, and peace. While Jacob and Esau were known for accentuating their differences, Rabbi Judah and Antoninus accentuated their common humanity.

When one considers the Torah's statement, "But the children struggled in her womb," one could think of contemporary challenges in our own time. Gender identity issues are now publicly discussed as emanating soon after birth. In recent months, I have personally given much thought toward my own sensitivity and toward greater inclusion in our shul. It would be easy to create division and debate, as exemplified by the personae of Jacob and Esau. I prefer to promote peace, understanding, and connectedness, as exemplified by Rabbi Judah the Prince and Antoninus.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Sat, 22 June 2024 16 Sivan 5784