Sibling rivalry is as old as time. Or at least as old as Torah. From Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, to Lean and Rachel, it is a fundamental part of our ancient narrative. This week’s Torah portion, Toldot, features Jacob and Esau, twins who are anything but identical.
Why can’t they just all get along?
Of course the natural jockeying for position within the family structure lends itself to hatred and jealousy. But, it is more than that. Siblings like Jacob and Esau fight not only for parental love, but God’s love as well. Only one can be the favored child. Only one can control the destiny of the Jewish people.
This winner-take-all attitude seems fundamentally wrong. I am reminded of what Dr. Rueben Hazan, the chair of the political science depart of Hebrew University, said a few years ago when he visited Shir Shalom before the 2014 election. Americans, he said, have countless choices for cereal, only two for presidents. Disenfranchising half of the American population every election cycle may lead to better ratings, but it has a terrible effect on how we treat one another.
It is easy to disparage Esau and build up Jacob, but when they finally reunite in a few weeks it still brings tears to my eyes. I can live with sibling rivalry. I can’t live with ongoing sibling fightery. For in contrast to what the biblical story seems to imply, God does not take sides. God’s love is enough for us all.