By Rabbi Amiram Markel
We are told that whatever happened to the forefathers is a sign for their children. In other words, the lives of the forefathers were prototypes of the future history of the Jewish people. Now, on the words, “And afterwards his brother came out and his hand gripped Esav’s heel etc.” Rashi comments, “I heard an aggadic midrash that explains it simply, as follows: ‘He rightfully gripped him to obstruct him, because Yaakov was formed from the first drop, whereas Esav was from the second drop. Learn it out from a narrow tube. If you put two stones in it, one under the other, the one that entered first will come out last and the one that entered last will come out first. Therefore, Esav who was formed last came out first and Yaakov who was formed first came out last. Yaakov came to obstruct him, so that he should also be first in birth, just as he was first in formation. Thus he would open her womb and take the rights of the firstborn by right of birth.’”
As the Torah tells us, though they were twins Yaakov and Esav were diametric opposites in their natures. This was so much so, that even in the womb they fought. Simply put Esav was wicked and Yaakov was righteous.
Esav epitomized the world of Tohu (Chaos) whereas Yaakov epitomized the world of Tikun (correction, order). As we learn in Kabbalah and Chassidus, the world of Tohu, which represents self-destructive, unharnessed desires (impulsivity) came out first in the order of creation and was followed by the world of Tikun (correction, order). However, in thought, the world of Tikun came up first, because it was HaShem’s ultimate intention in creating the world.
On the word Bereshith, the first word in the Torah, Rashi tells us that Israel are called Reshith (first). This is because they were the first thought to come up in HaShem’s intention in creating the world. However, as we say every Friday evening upon welcoming the Sabbath, “The last deed was first in thought.” Though Israel came out first in thought, they come out last in actualization. This is to say, that the blessing that Yaakov received from Yitzchak will only truly be fulfilled in the future when the world reaches a state of perfection, may it be speedily in our days.
With this in mind, we can now understand Rashi’s comment about Yaakov’s and Esav’s birth on a deeper level. Yaakov, who was later called Israel and is the father of the Jewish people, represents Tikun and was conceived first, as the ultimate purpose of creation. However, the full potential of the Jewish people will only be realized in the future with the ultimate perfection of the world. Esav was conceived secondarily, therefore his dominance in the world comes out first. However, Yaakov tried to obstruct Esav from coming out first. In other words, he wanted to bypass the “kingdom of wickedness” and skip directly to the times of Moshiach.
May it be HaShem’s will that, “all the enemies of your people will speedily be cut off and that the kingdom of wickedness should speedily be uprooted, broken and come to its end etc.” with the true and complete redemption. Amen