Pitting Against

In Toldot, this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to Yitzhak’s two children Esau and Jacob. While we know that Avraham’s line will continue in Yitzhak and not Yishmael, why didn’t Yakov and Esav both share the mantel of the future people instead of it just going to Yakov’s children? We read,

“And the boys grew; and Esav was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Yakov was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Now Isaac loved Esav, because he did eat of his venison; and Rivka loved Yakov.” (Genesis 25:27-28)

It is clear from the start that Yitzhak and Rebekah do not share an equal love for their children. From the start, they were in competition for their parents’ love. Yakov and Esav spend years and years in competition and struggle with each other, but it seems pretty clear that they are just living out the conflict between Yitzhak and Rivka.

I had the fortune to reread this part of the Torah with my friend and teacher Jon Adam Ross (JAR) as part of his  inHEIRitance Project.  At the time JAR was preparing to do a play inspired by Rivka in Charleston in 2015. This is a community struggling with a deep history of slavery and racism. In this context it was compelling to rethink the contrast between Yakov the tent dweller and Esav the hunter. In the context of Charleston Yakov and Esav were recast as the house slave and the field slave. It is clear that the tension between them was to keep our eyes off the oppression of the slave master.  There is a long history of pitting marginalized people against each other rather than dealing with the root cause of injustice. Why couldn’t Yitzhak and Rivka just deal with rift in their relationship? It would have saved their children a world of pain. Why do we accept this politics of  diversion of  pitting marginalized people against each other from the current administration?




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