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POLAR OPPOSITES

by Avi Wagner    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Early in this week's Torah portion, upon discovering a strange pushing in her stomach, Rebecca asks, "If so, why am I thus?" and consequently "she went to inquire of Hashem" (Genesis 25:22). The commentator Rashi interprets that she went to the academy of the prophet Shem son of Noah who would be able to tell her what was happening.

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Early in this week's Torah portion, upon discovering a strange pushing in her stomach, Rebecca asks, "If so, why am I thus?" and consequently "she went to inquire of Hashem" (Genesis 25:22). The commentator Rashi interprets that she went to the academy of the prophet Shem son of Noah who would be able to tell her what was happening.

In reference to this "pushing", Rashi explains that Esau and Jacob were pushing and fighting one another in her womb, engaging in "the battle for the settlement of the two worlds". The Maharal of Prague, a foremost Jewish thinker and philosopher of the 16th century, clarifies that these "two worlds" refer to this world and the World to Come. He then asks according to this simple understanding of Rashi, why were the brothers already fighting while still in the womb, even before entering this world where the battle should take place?

He offers a deeper understanding of Rashi's words to answer this question: Don't view the conflict between Esau and Jacob as that of two partners who engaged in a harmonious relationship, and tension caused discord between them. Rather, see them as fire and water who in principle will never coexist. Esau and Jacob, by their very definition, cannot live with each other.

Bearing this relationship in mind, it becomes clear why Jacob must later swindle the birthright from Esau - it is a matter of existence.

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Avi Wagner, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is studying abroad at Yeshiva Ner Yaakov in Jerusalem.

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