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The World to come – by Yitz Grossman

Located by Yitz Grossman.

Chazal tell us that Yaakov and Esav divided Olam Hazeh (this world) and Olam Haba (the World to Come) between themselves; Esav taking the former and Yaakov the latter. This does not mean that Esav divested himself of a share in Olam Haba before birth, but rather that these two embryos had the ultimate potential to control the physical world and the spiritual world respectively. Had Esav used his traits and tendencies properly, he could have become a partner with Yaakov in bringing the world to perfection. Similarly, had Yaakov abused his traits, he could have developed into one who distorted and corrupted spiritual concepts and values. 

The example of what the partnership of Yaakov and Esav could have been was epitomized by their descendants Antoninus-the might of Rome conquering the physical world-and Rebbe-the spirituality of Israel directing it toward spiritual values and goals. Nowhere does it state that Esav wanted to serve idolatry, only that he had a tendency towards it; he was just as capable of destroying idolatry and vanquishing the idolaters, as serving and promoting it. His mother Rivkah, says the Sifsei Kohen, deliberately passed by these places of idolatry in order to influence the heathens to renounce their idolatry. 

Now we can understand why Yitzchak wanted to give Esav the berachah, and loved Esav the hunter more than Yaakov, the diligent student. Esav deceived Yitzchak into thinking that he could employ his tendencies towards the physical world to conquer the world for Torah and subdue the forces of evil. Yitzchak attributed the differences he noted in Esav’s and Yaakov’s behavior-the fact that Esav did not mention God’s name and acted without proper courtesy -to Esav’s role as the mighty warrior who spoke with force and not finesse. He assumed that Esav was afraid to mention God’s name out of fear that he might forget himself in places to which his mission in life would inevitably bring him where mentioning God’s name is prohibited. 

Yitzchak thought that Esav was utilizing his unique traits for the good. True, in less than sublime ways, but that is the role of a king, who has to engage in war and to meet evil head-on to maintain justice in the world. Therefore Yitzchak desired to give the blessings, which were all material in nature, to Esav, who would need them to fulfill his role. Yaakov, he felt, did not need those blessings in the safe confines of the tents of learning. 

Only Rivkah saw through the righteous facade of Esav and recognized his deceptive ways-in part because of her familiarity with her own family of frauds and charlatans. She alone was able to expose Esav for what he really was and cause Yitzchak to see that both roles would be the domain of Yaakov-that Yaakov would be the sole progenitor of the future Klal Yisroel. Esav had exercised his free will to channel his tendencies toward evil, thereby disqualifying himself from a position in the future nation. 

Toldos should serve as an incentive to us to delve into our own personalities, to better understand our natural tendencies, so that we can develop and channel our unique traits to their most sublime purpose: the perfection of the world through the promotion of Torah and Divine service. 

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