וַיִּתְרֹֽצְצ֤וּ הַבָּנִים֙ בְּקִרְבָּ֔הּ וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אִם־כֵּ֔ן לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה אָנֹ֑כִי וַתֵּ֖לֶךְ לִדְרֹ֥שׁ אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה׃
“But the children struggled in [Rebecca’s] womb, and she said, “If so, why do I exist?” She went to inquire of the LORD…” Genesis 25:22
The collision of Toledot and Thanksgiving this week is a coincidence; but this story gives us a heady reminder and example of family dynamics gone wrong, right at the moment we are gathering together for our secular Thanksgiving weekend. Even in Rebecca’s womb, the brothers struggle. Rashi shares this midrash in his commentary on the above verse:
Our Rabbis explain that the word ויתרוצצו has the meaning of running, moving quickly: whenever she passed by the doors of the Torah (i. e. the Schools of Shem and Eber) Jacob moved convulsively in his efforts to come to birth, but whenever she passed by the gate of a pagan temple Esau moved convulsively in his efforts to come to birth (Genesis Rabbah 63:6). Another explanation is: they struggled with one another and quarreled as to how they should divide the two worlds as their inheritance (Yalkut Shimoni on Torah 111:2).
Midrash foreshadows Jacob’s deep connection and struggle with Judaism and Esau’s struggling movement toward his own destiny. This story also foreshadows the external struggles Jacob and Esau will have growing up, ending in this Parsha with the destruction of their relationship. Esau weeps, “Have you but one blessing Father? Bless me too Father!” In this story, Isaac and Rebecca believe there is only one blessing meant for one son. What might have been different had they realized that there was more than one blessing to be passed on, even if that blessing looked different for each child? As we gather together in families and friendships of all shapes and sizes and dynamics, let us remember that there is enough love for everyone, and let us give that love abundantly.