Two Sides of One Coin by Josh Michael


Travel the world; or simply look at the foreign coins mixed up with your regular change and you will notice that all coins have two sides. The two opposite sides have very different images, but they still are sides on the same coin.

This week's Parashah, Toldot, uses this idea to explain the twins Yaakov and Eisav. Although born from the same parents, they each have distinct personalities, attitudes, and skills. Eisav, the oldest, resembles Yitzchak in terms of Yitzchak’s tendency towards frequenting the field. The younger son, Yaakov, is more head than heart, preferring to think rationally. Yet each is very much one part of the same coin, different sides, as it were, of the parents who brought them to know life itself.

Rivkah overheard Yitzchak telling Eisav to go and kill a goat and prepare it exactly as Yitzchak likes and then he will give Eisav his blessing. Accordingly, Eisav goes to do what his father requested. On the other hand, Rivkah planned on having Yaakov get the blessing, so she told him to get two goats and she will prepare them for Yitzchak. She did this and instructed Yaakov to wear goat skin, so he will resemble Eisav. Yaakov does everything his mother told him and the stage is set for a scene that changed history.

Yaakov, not his brother Eisav, received Yitzchak's blessing. Each now steps into the role they will play for years to come. As dramatic, even treacherous, as this all is, one should keep in mind that Yaakov seemingly had a choice. He did not have to follow his mother’s deceptive thoughts, instead allowing his brother to receive what he may have deserved. Or, Yaakov could have joined Eisav before his father, using his gift of intellect in reasoning how both sons should be blessed. Again, two people, two sides, two possible outcomes. But only one path could have been followed and Yaakov set his foot upon the one which would bring him the finest outcome and he received the blessing. The question is what price did he pay to get the blessing?

In Parashat Toldot we observe what seems to be treachery and deception, the pangs of confusion and uncertainty. These are very much a part of our Torah. But this story has two sides: one is obvious while the other isn't so easy to see. If we flip the coin, we can see a younger son trying to win over his father's love. Yaakov was not the successful hunter and man of the fields his brother naturally was. Eisav, the oldest, was closer to Yitzchak. While he plays the role of the younger, jealous brother, Yaakov nonetheless, goes to his father looking for far more than a blessing, he wanted equality as well.

Yaakov receives the blessing, but it unravels as Eisav discovers this and now looks toward killing his brother. It is not revenge Eisav has in mind, but equality; ironically, the same equality Yaakov had in mind when he deceived Yitzchak. This also explains why Yitzchak’s blessing to Eisav was not one of superiority; it gave him the opportunity to be equal to him.

Just as Yaakov had a choice whether to follow through on the scheme, we too always have the choice in our actions. When we make our decision, we must keep in mind the other side, meaning the way that it will affect everyone else and hopefully, with Hashem’s help, we will be able to choose the option which not only benefits us but also the rest of the world.

-Editor’s Note:  For a different perspective on Yaakov’s actions visit 

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