Transforming Our Nature
We don’t read the Torah simply to gain spiritual lessons. We do it so that we can gain assistance from the many great souls whose stories we are studying. We do it so we can connect to the processes these great souls went through as a way to help us go through our own processes. In this week’s portion, we can receive the assistance of the soul of Jacob, and even of Esau, to go through the process of completely transforming our nature.
Isaac, the son of Abraham, had two sons, Jacob and Esau, who we know were in the womb together. Jacob tried to hold his brother Esau back while being born so that he, instead, could come out first and gain the right to the blessings of the firstborn. Yet, as we know, Esau is born first, and as such, Isaac desires to bestow the blessings on him.
Jacob goes through a whole process of lying and deceiving his father in order to end up receiving the blessings. He had to fight his brother, had to fight his father-in-law, had to run away from his father’s house, had to face challenge after challenge. We are told that Jacob is righteous, we know that he’s connected to the Light of the Creator, so why are there constant battles for him… why are there constant barriers that he has to go through?
Interestingly, the kabbalists teach that if you looked at the two brothers and you had to assess at face value who the more elevated soul was, you would most likely choose Esau. To all outward appearances, in fact, the kabbalists teach that Esau had a mind a thousand times sharper than hisbrother’s. Yet Jacob has the revelation that in order to connect to the Light of the Creator and to accomplish what he came to this world to do, he would have to fight everything about who he was and go against the nature he was born with. Jacob faced challenge after challenge because he knew that when we battle our nature, when we are born in one way and we fight against it completely to accomplish transformation, that’s where the Light of the Creator is revealed.
This is the true lesson between Jacob and Esau. While Esau was willing to do spiritual work, he was not willing to fight his nature. He did not even think it was necessary. It isn’t that we should see Esau as being a negative person; it is that Esau thought his spiritual growth was going to come just from using all the powers he was born with. Esau honored and respected his father, he did great things… but only when he wanted to. That is not true spiritual work. Spiritual work that we do that is within our nature, spiritual work that we do that is comfortable for us, is not true spiritual work. It doesn’t reveal much Light.
The reality of who Esau was never changed, because his spiritual work did not go against every fiber of his being. A person can be studying, can be doing many actions of sharing, but that does not mean that he is accomplishing his purpose. Many of us are born with good qualities that, of course, we need to use. It’s good that we do all the other things that are within our nature that share, that reveal some Light; it doesn’t mean that we stop doing those things. We just have to be careful not to make the mistake of thinking that simply because we are doing positive actions it means we are accomplishing our purpose. For example, there are people who are naturally charitable, there are people whose nature it is to attain wisdom, there are people who are born teachers. However, the fact that they give money, the fact that they spend their time and invest in attaining wisdom, the fact that they spend their entire energy in teaching other people, of course, will bring a certain amount of Light, but it doesn’t mean that they are accomplishing what they came to this world to do.
This understanding certainly gives us a different assessment of how we need to look at our spiritual lives. We come to realize from this portion that the answer is not how much you do, or even what you do, but how much you are fighting your nature. I think about this for myself, and I hope you all do. To assess where you are in the process of your soul, in the process of revealing the purpose for which you came to this world, the question has to be: are you transforming the nature you were born with?
We learn from this portion that living a good, spiritual life doesn’t mean anything if it is within our nature to do so. This concept can really change your life, because we don’t lie to ourselves anymore. It gives us a way to assess where we truly are in our soul’s process. By asking ourselves, “What is my nature, and what actions am I doing that are completely opposite to it?” we see where our work is actually focused.
In this portion, Jacob fights against everything he is, and we are given the amazing gift this week to connect to him and gain his assistance in fighting our own battles. In so doing, we are revealing more and more Light, becoming closer and closer to accomplishing our true purpose… and when we transform our nature, that is when unlimited Light and blessings can flow into our lives.
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