"The children struggled within her…." (Gen. 25:22)

When she passed by the house of study headed by Shem and Eber, Jacob tried to get out; when she passed by a temple of idolatry, Esau tried to get out. They were also fighting over who would inherit the two worlds: the physical world and the World to Come.[Rashi]

This does not mean that Esau possessed an inborn drive to serve idols, for:

  • we know that everyone is born with free choice - and we also could not then fault him for turning out wicked, and
  • how could a son of Isaac possess such a trait?

Esau…desired both worlds…

Rather, it means that Jacob and Esau were each born predisposed to one of the two, complementary facets of the
G‑dly life. Jacob was drawn to the direct path of ascending the ladder of divine consciousness by increasing (quantitatively and qualitatively) in knowledge and good deeds. Esau, in contrast, was drawn to the indirect path of championing goodness by combating evil.

This is clear also from the fact that they were fighting over who would inherit both worlds: This World and the World to Come. Had Esau been innately evil, he would not have been interested in the World to Come. The fact that he desired both worlds indicates that at this point, at least, his intentions were still pure. True, his focus was on the challenges of This World, but he saw the World to Come as a source of inspiration and guidance in accomplishing his goal of refining this world. In contrast, Jacob's focus was mainly the World to Come, the goal of the constant ascent in divine consciousness. But he wanted This World also, since he knew that answering the challenges of This World enables us to attain higher levels in the World to Come.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot (vol. 20, pp.108 ff.)

Copyright 2001 Chabad of California / http://www.LAchumash.org