Jewish Forums
Why Esau was different from Jacob [Israel] - Printable Version

+- Jewish Forums (
+-- Forum: Main Forums (
+--- Forum: Judaism General (
+--- Thread: Why Esau was different from Jacob [Israel] (/showthread.php?tid=653)

Why Esau was different from Jacob [Israel] - Nooone - 04-17-2021

Recently I went to a Ask a Rabbi website with a question about Esau:
Here is the answear I received 16 April 2021

Easu despite his sins was indeed Jewish. what turned him against the Jewish Faith?


Great question.

It's interesting to note that the difference between the personalities of Jacob and Esau seem to be have been rooted from very early in life and even before birth, but yet it didn't become apparent until they became young adults at the age of 13.

We find in the Torah that their mother had a difficult pregnancy and that she was already foretold then they would separate to different paths, as it says (Genesis 25:23), "And the Lord said to her.. '..from your womb they will separate..'", and Rashi explains there, "this one to his wickedness, and this one to his innocence".

The Midrash takes it a step further and explains that already during her pregnancy (quoted in Rashi, ibid. 25:22), "When she passed by the entrances of [the] Torah [academies] of Shem and Eber, Jacob would run and struggle to come out; when she passed the entrance of [a temple of] idolatry, Esau would run and struggle to come out."

We also find in the Torah that as soon as they emerged from the womb, it was already apparent that they were different, as it says (ibid. 25:25), "And the first one emerged with a reddish-appearance; he was completely like a coat of hair, and they named him Esau", and as Rashi explains there, "That is a sign that he will be a person who sheds blood."

Nonetheless, the Torah says that they didn't actually separate until they became young adults, as it says (ibid. 25:27), "And the youths grew up, and Esau was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, whereas Jacob was an innocent man, dwelling in tents."

The Midrash explains there that until age 13, they both "went to school each day and returned from school each day", it was only from age 13 and on that "this one went to the study halls and this one went to the houses of idol worship". It gives a parable there of two different types of flowers, which both begin to grow next to each other, and yet their different scents only begin to emerge after they fully blossom. Similarly, the commentaries there explain, that even when two people are born with inborn traits that are different, some of these traits may remain dormant during childhood and may only emerge as they blossom into young adults. For this reason, the Midrash goes on to say, a parent is responsible for the child's action's until 13 but not after. - Genesis Rabbah 63:10

In summary, it seems that Esau was born with an inborn pull towards idolatry, but nonetheless, as a child he was still under the influence of the upright environment in which he grew up. As he became a young adult of 13, his inborn character traits began to emerge, and thus the influence of his familial environment weakened, and he began to abandon the Jewish practice he grew up with.

For two years he was able to hide it somewhat, and it only became more apparent as he turned 15, which is when he also began to commit more serious sins. For this reason Abraham died then, so that he shouldn't see his grandson Esau visibly abandon his path. It was then that he sold the birthright and his path in life became more solidified. - Genesis Rabbah and Etz Yosef there, and Chizkuni, ibid. 25:27

The Midrash goes on to intimate that his grandfather's death at age 15 was a turning point in his life, that when Esau saw the pot of lentils that his brother was cooking and discovered that it was because Abraham had died and the lentils were to mourn the dead, he asked, "Did the attribute of judgement fall upon this old man?", to which Jacob replied, "Yes". Esau then said, "If so, there is no punishment and reward and no resurrection of the dead."

The commentaries there explain that Esau viewed this world as the most important one, and therefore when he died at a younger age than the previous generations which lived to very long ages he told himself that it doesn't make sense that such a righteous man as his grandfather would not be able to live out his full lifespan in this world. This caused him to deny the very concept of punishment and reward from above.
See here for more about for an interesting article about the life journey of Esau, based on Judaic sources..

See here for a deeper understanding of Esau according to the Chasidic interpretation, and how is inborn pull towards idolatry was not a contradiction to his free choice and even not towards his Jewish identity..

Hope this is helpful.

Keep on studying!

All the best and Shabbat Shalom,

Mendel Fogelman

RE: Why Esau was different from Jacob [Israel] - Nooone - 04-17-2021

Of Interest see the following on Esau; Leah and Dinah [reference only]

Jacob and Easu

RE: Why Esau was different from Jacob [Israel] - Nooone - 04-17-2021

Descendants of Esau was Amalek, Haman and Titus