‘Struggled Together’ – The ‘Hebrew’ Battle Between Esau and Jacob

Today’s Parasha {פרשה} (weekly Torah portion) is ‘Toldot’ {תולדות} (Hebrew for ‘generations’). This is the sixth weekly Torah portion in the Book of Genesis and can be found in Genesis 25:19–28:9.

The name of the weekly Torah portion comes from the second word (in the original Hebrew) of the opening verse:

“These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac.” (Genesis 25:19)

A few verses later, the Bible tells us about the pregnancy of Rebecca and the fact she is carrying twins in her womb. A very interesting description is then given:

“The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.” (Genesis 25:22)

The original Hebrew word for ‘struggled together’ is ‘Va-Yitrotze’tzu’ {ויתרוצצו} which derives from the Hebrew root ‘R-U-TZ’ {ר-ו-צ} which means ‘running.’

Grammatically, this Hebrew verb is found in ‘Binyan Hitpael'{בניין התפעל} – which is the Hebrew verb group for the reflexive actions and this fact influenced the Bible translators to use the term ‘struggled together’ instead of ‘running around’ – which is more of a literal word for word translation.

Interestingly, an old Jewish ‘Midrash’ {מדרש} (‘Jewish lesson’) was probably the first to interpret this Hebrew verb as ‘struggled together’ as it tells us the following story:

Every time Rebecca was passing by near a place of idolatry – Esau wanted to go out of her womb, while every time she passed by a place where good values were kept – Jacob wanted to go out of her womb. And that is the explanation for ‘the children struggled together within her’…