Today I would like to talk about a 

topic I’m knowledgeable about.  

“ Brothers “

TOLDOT,  is the story of Jacob 

and Esau, 

two twin brothers who didn’t act 

very brotherly.  

When I was reading the portion, 

one overall question came to mind.  

It seems the Torah was asking this 

question, as well.  

Why do brothers fight?

The Torah tells us why Jacob and 

Esau were fighting.  

One reason is that the parents had 

a favorite.  

Rebecca favored Jacob

the pale, 

skinny, wise child who preferred 

the company of his books.   

Isaac favored Esau, 

the eldest, hairy, strong, impulsive


The parents showed their 

favoritism openly which fueled the 

jealousy between the boys.  

Jacob was jealous of Esau getting 

the birthright.  

So Jacob took advantage of Esau 

when Esau was hungry and traded 

a bowl of stew for Esau’s 


It wasn’t a fair trade and Jacob 

knew it.

Sibling jealousy can start at a very 

young age.   

Jacob was born holding the heel

of his brother, almost as if he were 


“oh, no, you don’t, the birthright is 


Jacob stole Esau’s birthright and 

his father’s blessing by 

impersonating Esau.  

In a fit of rage, Esau swore to kill 


To save himself , Jacob ran away. 

The brothers were separated for 21 years.

twenty-one Yom Kippurs to reflect 

on what they did.  

Eventually, Esau, the hunter, and 

Jacob, the shepherd, made peace.


The Rabbis thought that the 

favoritism shown by Jacob’s and 

Esau’s parents was one of the 

main causes of the jealousy and 

hatred between the brothers.  

The Midrash tells us that


favoured Jacob because G-D had 

told her that the younger son was

to be the leader. 

So, why did Isaac favor Esau?  

Genesis Rabbah suggests that 

Isaac never recovered from when 

his father, Abraham, tried 

unsuccessfully to offer him as a 

sacrifice on Mt. Moriah.  

He became fearful for all his life 

and leaned on people who 

displayed strength, such as Esau.

I agree that parental favouritism 

causes jealously.  

Esau perceives that Jacob stole 

the blessing with his mother’s 


The strength of his anger leads 

him to want to kill Jacob.

It’s natural to want to hurt your 

brother when he makes you angry, 

especially someone like Esau with

 his quick temper and physical 


It’s in the nature of brothers to 


whether physically or 

by insulting, attacking with words

 each other.  

Why do we fight?  

We fight to get what we want.  

To be better than our sibling.  

But, as we grow, 

we come together more.  

We start to actually like each other.

So how did these warring brothers 

come together?  

They had 21 years of separation to 

consider over their offenses and 


That’s a long time.  

Esau had time to realize that it 

wasn’t entirely Jacob’s fault. 

Jacob, Esau and their parents all 

had a role in creating the discord.  

Esau realized that he should not 

have traded his birthright for food 

as he wasn’t going to die of 


When he was a child, 

he let his stomach do the thinking 

for him.  

During this period of separation, 

Esau matured.  

He became a true adult by being 

less impulsive and more reflective. 

As an adult, 

• He had an army to command.  

• He had to be responsible for 

rations, water supply and military 


• He couldn’t afford to think only of himself.  

Jacob also had regrets.  

He knew that he had taken 

advantage of Esau by trading food 

for a birthright and then tricking 

his father.  

• He wished he had resisted his 

mother who had insisted that he 

steal the blessing.  

• He had not stood up for himself.  

• Instead, he had let someone 

else, namely his mother, make 

decisions for him.  

21 years later, 

Jacob realised that he had been 

very selfish.  

As an adult, 

• he too had responsibilities 

• a family to look after and 

livestock to tend.  

Once he had become the parent,  

he could reflect on what he liked 

and didn’t like about his parents 

actions and his own. 

These realizations would help in 

our own lives.  

If we thought about how our

actions affect others every time 

we took advantage of someone or 

pressured someone into doing 


or acted out of duress, 

then we wouldn’t fight as much.   


Eventually, Jacob and Esau made 

peace just like most brothers.  


I want to hurt my brother, too, 

but it takes me less than 21 years 

to get over my anger.   

My 21 years is more like 21 

minutes or 21 seconds.  

That’s the time it takes me and my 

brother to make peace

• to think about what we did, 

• could have done, 

• should have done, 

and then to come back together.  

Then the whole process of 



repent repeats itself.  

As we get older, the process 

repeats less and less. 

Our parents have encouraged us 

to think about our actions 

and to use words not fists. 

We learn to put up with each other 

and to forgive, 

even when it’s not Yom Kippur.  

Brothers are family.  

The closest family you can be.


Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420