Michael Corleone (“The Don”) says to his brother, Freddo, after learning that he had conspired against him, “Haven’t I always taken care of you?”
Freddo responds indignantly, “Taken care of me?!? I’m the oldest son and I was stepped over!”
Michael says, “That’s not the way Pop wanted it.”
If you don’t remember this Torah teaching, you’re forgiven. Obviously, this is not from the Torah but from one of my all-time favorite movies, The Godfather. However, there is a thread to pull from this scene and this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, starring Jacob. Of all the characters in the Torah, Jacob has been and remains for me one of the most fascinating because he is the most human.
A little background - Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham was, as the sages refer to him, a lonely man of faith, distant from the earthly realm. Jacob’s father, Isaac, moved through life unengaged allowing his life to happen to him. Who can blame him? His father once tried to kill him after all. But, Jacob, ahhh, Jacob. The Torah teaches us, from his birth, his character, personality, his “DNA” was formed. He enters the world tightly holding to his twin brother Esau’s heel, intent on climbing over him in order to eventually receive the coveted blessing of the firstborn. End scene.
Fast forward...Isaac is old and preparing to die. When it’s time for Isaac to bestow his blessing of the firstborn, Rebekkah, Jacob’s mother, disguises him as Esau and the mission is accomplished. For the next 20 years, Jacob carries the burden of his guilt and the knowledge that he cheated his brother of his birthright. Every day, for the next 20 years, he lives in fear of Esau’s retribution.
Jacob is entitled and unreflective. Even though he deceived his own father and deprived his brother of his rightful birthright, he is still bewildered when he is deceived by others. Another consequence of Jacob’s actions is his life is further diminished by his own deceit, depriving himself of the blessing to trust and love freely because one who deceives often believes he is being deceived, whether true or not.
May the light of Torah illuminate our dark shadows and point us in the direction of our own truth.