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After twenty years of marriage without children, Yitzchak's
are answered and Rivka conceives twins. The pregnancy is extremely
painful. G-d reveals to Rivka that the suffering is a microcosmic
prelude to the world-wide conflict that will rage between the two
great nations descended from these twins - Rome and Israel.
Esav is born first, and then Yaakov holding onto Esav's heel.
As they grow, the contrast between the twins becomes apparent:
Esav is a hunter, a man of the field, of the physical world,
whereas Yaakov sits in the tents of Torah developing his soul.
On the day of their grandfather Avraham's funeral, Yaakov
is cooking lentils, the traditional mourner's meal. Esav rushes in,
ravenous from a hard day's hunting, and sells his birthright (and its
spiritual responsibilities) for a bowl of lentils, clearly demonstrating
his unworthiness for the position of the firstborn.
Yitzchak tries to escape to Egypt when a famine strikes Canaan,
but G-d tells him that because of the akeida (where he was offered
as a sacrifice) he has become holy and must remain in the Holy Land.
He relocates to Gerar in the land of the Plishtim, where,
to protect Rivka, he has to say that she is his sister.
Yitzchak arouses jealousy when he becomes immensely wealthy,
and Avimelech the King asks him to leave.
Yitzchak re-digs three wells dug by his father, prophetically alluding
to the three future Temples. Avimelech, seeing the blessings
G-d has bestowed on Yitzchak, makes a treaty with him.
When Yitzchak senses the end of his days approaching, he summons
Esav to give Esav his blessings. Rivka, acting on a prophetic
command that the blessings must go to Yaakov, arranges for
Yaakov to impersonate his brother and receive the blessings.
When Esav in a rage of frustration complains to his father that his
brother has bought his birthright, Yitzchak realizes that the birthright
has been bestowed correctly on Yaakov who has valued its
responsibilities rather than its privileges, and confirms the blessings
he has given. Esav vows to kill his brother, so Rivka sends Yaakov
to her brother Lavan where he may find a suitable wife.