The story of Esau and Jacob is an epic of two brothers. Jacob is deemed to inherit the birthright of the Jewish people, while Esau is condemned in the rabbinic commentary as being the progenitor of Seir, the forerunner of Rome.

 

The story of sibling rivalry is a common theme that appears and reappears in the Tanakh. Rather, it is uncommon that two siblings are not marked by a deep rivalry.

 

But today I would like to focus our attention on something I cannot avoid thinking about when reading into the text.

 

My wife is a nurse, and I served as a medic in Israel for two years and worked as an emergency medical technician for a year outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I chose a different path in life in the pursuit of bringing spiritual guidance to Jews. I have personally witnessed the beneficial impact that good spiritual guidance can have toward health.

 

I cannot avoid thinking about the syndrome described to me by a doctor before entering into rabbinical school. Twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) is an imbalance in the blood flow between identical twins who share a single placenta but have separate amniotic sacs. The syndrome has considerable implications for the development of the twins. Classical, one baby is born larger and is born with a dark red hue, while the other is born smaller and extremely pale. The red child is typically born first and struggles with developmental stages.

 

Esau is described as red in the Tanakh, and his development appears to be flawed in a number of examples. His decision to sell his birthright to his brother for a cup of soup is characteristic of someone truly challenged with developmental abilities.

 

Whether we choose to believe the characters of the Tanakh are allegorical or that they were actual people, the decision to describe the brothers in such detail offers us insight into how TTTS may have been understood by our ancestors.

 

Our ancestors were searching for understanding in stories like Jacob and Esau, which was the understanding of medical phenomenon. And following in their footsteps we, Am Yisrael will continue to search of understanding of biblical texts. 


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