The contrast between Yaakov and Esav (Jacob and Esau) in this week’s Torah portion is stark. “The children matured, and Esav knew how to hunt, he was a man of the field, and Yaakov was whole, one who sits in tents (Gen. 25:27).” These descriptions show a clear contrast between the twins.
There are two classic Aramaic translations of the Torah – “Targum Onkelos” and “Targum Yonason” that present deeper insights based on the teachings of the Talmudic sages. On this verse, Targum Yonason defines “one who sits in tents,” the description of Yaakov, as “one who seeks out G-d,” while “man of the field,” the description of Esav, he translates as “an idle man.” With this we understand the real difference between Yaakov and Esav — Yaakov had a constant desire to grow closer to G-d, while Esav would waste his time solely on sport, in “the field,” indulging in material matters.
The worldwide Coronavirus lockdown this past spring closed schools, businesses, houses of worship – all operations besides those considered to be essential. What did people do when they found themselves stuck in their homes? I recall a woman being asked by a reporter, “So how do you plan to spend your time at home in quarantine?” She responded in all sincerity, “Lots of Netflix and lots of chips!”
Fortunately, many had a different experience. In numerous Jewish communities across the globe, synagogues and Yeshivos (Jewish Schools) were closed, but people made every effort to find ways to continue their Torah learning, and prayed together outside. Someone said at the time, “The lockdown is like a flight to Israel. Everyone around us is watching movies, while we’re just looking to make a Minyan (gather for prayer).”
Many outdoor tents are still in use today for prayer services. One could say this follows in the ways of our Patriarch, Yaakov – dwelling in tents, seeking out G-d.”
We continue to pray for those who are sick, that the virus be eradicated soon, and that life go back to normal. In the meantime, let’s continue to seek out G-d even in these challenging conditions. One can only be inspired by seeing the lengths that people have gone in their desire to seek out the word and love of G-d. It’s truly in-tents!