“And G‑d said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb and two peoples shall diverge from your belly; and one nation will struggle against the other…’”—Genesis 25:23.
In this week’s portion, the matriarch Rebecca conceives and – not knowing that she is pregnant with twins – asks God to tell her why her pregnancy is causing her so much pain. She discovers that not only is she carrying two babies, but that they are actually battling within her. Her sons, Jacob and Esau, are rivals who are destined to continuously struggle from inside the womb, throughout their lives and into the annals of history.
The fate of Jacob and Esau is such that they cannot both exert power at the same time. Each one’s strength is derived only from the weakening of the other. As tradition relates, “They will never be equal. When one rises, the other will fall.”
Let’s move away from the literal obvious explanation and try to understand this on a spiritual metamorphic level.
Not only within Rebecca, but in all of us, these two twins struggle…In spiritual terms, Jacob and Esau represent two diametrically-opposed inclinations in human beings: a desire to serve a Higher Power and a desire to serve oneself One represents spirituality, humility and service to others—while the other represents physicality, arrogance, self centeredness and aggression. Not only within one soul, but also in all of us, these twin struggles exist in all humans, always vying for control over the other.
As human beings we are no strangers to the dynamic of this conflict.
We may view ourselves as having our own personality, one that values selfishness and gratification. It wants to control our lives so that we pursue only its desires. It is big and strong, a hunter and an outlaw. Then there is a part of us that wants to be closer to God and live a life of usefulness. This is our other self who is quiet, peaceful and loving. These two cannot both be in charge at the same time. Neither can they share nor divvy up control so as to coexist on equal footing. There is no possibility of compromise. Each one can only strengthen itself at the direct expense of the other.
Like the image of a seesaw, if one end is rising, then the other must be going down. At any given moment, the selfish material side may push itself up over our spiritual self; or, conversely, our spirituality comes to the fore through the quelling and repressing of our disease for another little while. But one thing is certain: both cannot happen at once.
Ask yourself at this moment, ‘Are you working towards or away from a your Higher Power?’”
Or, as it’s also been said: “When I’m not working on my spiritual enlargement, I’m working on my self absorption.”
A mystical tradition tells us that even if one is completely reformed and exerts perfect control over negative impulses for the rest of your life, your internal negativity will never go away. To the contrary, even when kept in perfect and constant check, not only does it not leave—but, just by our maintaining our bodily needs, the animalistic and selfish side unavoidably grows stronger every day.
Scholarly spiritualists tell us that progresses even during the best of times are precarious. It comes as no wonder, then, to know that the our negative side progresses even during these good times.
But, thankfully, our Higher Power has given each of us the ability to stay one step – or hopefully many steps – ahead. It is our relationship with God that is the key to outrunning, outlasting and overpowering our internal negativity—one day at a time.
Thus, when it comes to spiritual growth, we must renew our commitment daily with refreshed intensity and vigor. We must remain ever vigilant. We can settle for no less than a goal of complete spiritual domination of all aspects of our lives.
Does this sound extreme or intense? It is—because our negativity is.
It is because we are human and our God wants close and trusting so that relationship can continue our spiritual growth.Continue Reading...