This week's portion of Toldot, which means descendants, starts off with Isaac praying for his wife Rivka. The Torah states that she was "barren" and Isaac prayed for her to have children. Rivka becomes pregnant with twins and we learn an important lesson about the power of prayer. First, we must recognize and understand that prayer works and should not be taken for granted. People are very quick to utilize medical and other physical tools to overcome adversity (all of which should also be utilized), but often overlook prayer as an equally important tool to achieve desired results. In order to get the most out of prayer, as we see in the case of Isaac praying for Rivka, it is important to pray and focus our intention on others. In the same manner that Isaac's prayer helped to overcome Rivka's physical inability to conceive, we too can utilize prayer directed towards others as an effective process to achieve results or overcome difficult situations. We can activate our unique power of prayer in this week's reading.
We read in Toldot about the distinct energies of good and evil embodied by Jacob and Esau - Rivka and Isaac's twin boys. G-d says to Rivka, "there are two nations in your womb, and two manner of people, and one people will be stronger than the other people". The Midrash and commentators share that when Rivka was pregnant, whenever she would pass a holy place or place of study she would feel the kick of Jacob. When she would pass a place of immorality or corruption, she would feel the kick of Esau. The lesson for us is to understand that each of us possesses the dichotomy of good and evil, light and dark. We have the unique ability as human beings to exercise our free will and choose the proper path that leads to Light and continuity. It is only by understanding that we have the opportunity to pick either option when presented to us, that we are able to act proactively and make the right choice for the best results in life. We will be tempted by negative opportunities throughout our lives and we must strive to utilize our understanding and higher consciousness to overcome the temptation towards the evil inclination. We can connect to our highest selves by restricting the short-term pleasures from immoral activity and act in a proactive manner for long-term reward.
The portion describes how Esau came back from hunting in the field and found his brother Jacob making lentils. Esau was famished and agreed to sell his birthright to his brother for a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. We see here how Esau's desire for immediate gratification to satisfy his short term hunger resulted in him giving up a right and duty to which he was entitled from birth. The lesson for us is to always think about the longer term consequences of our actions and to never settle for short term pleasure. We must try to maintain a perspective on the "big picture" when considering our actions and the trade offs we make throughout our life.