"Esau ran to greet him. He embraced him and, falling on his neck, he kissed him; and they wept" Genesis 33.4

By Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh, November 18, 2010

In the struggle between the twins, it is always Jacob who comes out on top. He gets the blessing and then everything follows on from there... but not neatly. Repeatedly, Jacob pays a heavy price for the deception that becomes second nature, and his life is a catalogue of gains and losses, the latter carrying much more pain than the former carry happiness.

If you buy into rabbinic propaganda, there is always an excuse for Jacob, always a justification to make him worthy of the title of third patriarch.

And Esau? Nothing pleases the rabbis more than to give him a good kicking; none of his motives are pure, he is an amoral reprobate and his loss of the blessing is no more than he deserves! Poor old Esau... unlike his devious brother, the Torah presents him as a straightforward soul, an ordinary man, addicted to country pursuits, unsophisticated but at ease with himself and enjoying the love of his father.

When he discovers the theft of his blessing, his anger is volcanic and his verbal threat to Jacob is deadly, but it passes swiftly. Jacob, incapable of trust and a coward, runs away and when the time comes for the brothers to be reunited many years later, his mistrust forces him into a string of ever more ludicrous measures.

For Esau, the sight of his brother, his twin, is a moment of purest elation and he comes to honour Jacob with a large entourage: for Jacob, it is simply a moment of fear, coupled as always with monumental selfishness: for Esau, it is tears of joy as he hugs and kisses his brother, crying with happiness at seeing him again: for Jacob it is tears of relief, covering a thinly veiled hauteur.

What a waste! And what a shame that we all tend to have more of Jacob than Esau within our own hearts.

Last updated: 2:30pm, November 18 2010