I love, love Jacob’s story. It is most likely reminiscent of most of our stories. Esau could represent the earthly part of humanity, and Jacob the spiritual nature. In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in Our image.” Many Christian commentators try to make this verse about the Trinity, while some Rabbis say God is speaking to the Divine counsel in the heavens, but I prefer Rambam’s interpretation that this verse describes God speaking to the Earth from which He formed us. (Genesis 1:26:1)
The Blue Letter Bible interlinear defines Adam as human in Genesis 1:27 and 2:7. It is not until the debacle in Genesis 3:17 that the BLB defines Adam as “red” for the first time, with eight mentions following. A play on words suggests that God created Adam from the dust of the ground, or adamah in Hebrew, meaning red earth (Gn 2.7). Further along in Genesis 25:30, God calls Esau-Edom. Edom means “red” and shares the same Hebrew root as Adam. Adam went from a human being, made in the image of God, to red and earthy with his choice to eat from the wrong tree in the Garden. Esau reflected the fleshly nature in that it was his lust that he fed so diligently with no regard to the voice of the Spirit when he traded his birthright for a bowl of “red” soup (Gn 25.30). Like Esau, we can feed the “red” voice that is selfish, craves immediate satisfaction, and fails to take the will of God into account. Did you ever wonder why God cursed the ground after Adam and Chavah disobeyed His instructions in the Garden of Eden? Possibly because it was the earthy part of them that drew them away from obedience to God’s voice.
Genesis 3:17: Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil, you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”
Jacob had to learn how to walk face-to-face with humans and God. These are the two things we all wrestle with.
Genesis 32:28: And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Walking face-to-face takes vulnerability, humility, and loving-kindness, and all of it is honking hard! Jacob went to the school of hard knocks, but he is my hero because he never gave up. From the womb, Jacob was a fighter, but what did he fight for? He fought for the blessings of his father, symbolic of the blessings of God. He may have gone about getting those blessings through cheeky means, but he was zealous for a spiritual inheritance. At first, he ran from the consequences of his choices, but in the end, he faced the consequences by trusting God to strengthen him to do the right thing. He bowed humbly seven times before Esau. Seven is the number of wholeness or completeness. He was completely humble, taking responsibility for his wrongs. He made restitution to build a bridge back to his brother when he gave a portion of his blessing back to Esau. In the FFOZ Torah Club for the Torah Portion Vayishlach, the writer mentions that Genesis 33:11 has the word blessing in it, “Please take my gift (brachah-blessing) which has been brought to you.” He could have been restoring to Esau what he had taken from him. Jacob teaches us that humility coupled with restitution is how we overcome wrestling with humans. Questioning God’s existence, struggling to pray, being angry at Him for injustice in the world, and disliking people who represent Him can be a part of wrestling with God. We do not wrestle with flesh and blood, meaning we do not put on our stretchy pants and physically wrestle and fight people. We wrestle with our earthy nature, and we wrestle with that nature in other humans. Adulting is for the birds, yet a necessary part of the learning process of becoming participants in the Kingdom of Light. Now, let’s all watch Nacho Libre and hone in on our wrestling skills.