After twenty years of marriage without children, Yitschak's prayers to HaShem are answered and Rivkah conceives twins, Esav and Ya'akov. The pregnancy is extremely painful. HaShem reveals to Rivkah that the suffering is a microcosmic prelude to the worldwide conflict that will rage between the two great nations descended from these twins -- Rome and Israel.
Esav is born first, and then Ya'akov, holding onto Esav's heel. As they grow up, the contrast between the twins becomes apparent: Esav is a hunter, a man of the field, of the physical world, whereas Ya'akov sits in the tents of Torah developing his soul. On the day of the funeral of their grandfather Avraham, Ya'akov is cooking lentil soup, the traditional mourners' meal. Esav rushes in, ravenous from a hard day's hunting, and sells his birthright (and its concomitant spiritual responsibilities) for a bowl of soup, clearly demonstrating his unworthiness for the position of the firstborn. Read more