Kenneth Cohen

Yakov and Eisav

Rivka’s pregnancy was very difficult with great turmoil. There is even a Midrash that says that she was advised to terminate the pregnancy. There was a certain potion they took, that caused the fetuses to abort. The Baal Haturim noted that the Gematria of the words, שני גיים, two nations, was equal to the names Antonines and Rabbi Yehuda, who descended from her.

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, was a descendant of Eisav, and Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, the editor of the Mishna, descended from Yakov Avinu. The Gemara in Avoda Zara describes the remarkable friendship between these two great leaders. They even constructed a tunnel between their two homes, and met on a regular basis. Antoninus had great admiration for Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi. He often sought his advice on major decisions he needed to make as emperor. We are also told that Antoninus would get down on all fours so that the saintly rabbi could step on his back, to help him get into bed.

He was assured by the rabbi that despite his being a descendant of Eisav, he would still merit Olam Haba. It is amazing that there are a number of instances where our enemies, become our admirers, or even convert. One such example is the well known convert, Onkelos. His translation of the Torah to Aramaic, is still studied today. What many do not know, is that Onkelos was the nephew of the evil, Titus, who destroyed the Second Temple. There are numerous references among the prophets that speak of the time when all of the nations of the world, will embrace the Jewish people. They will regret how the Jews were treated throughout the generations.

Although there were always the Eisavs that wished to destroy us, but there were also those that respected us. Hopefully, we are quickly approaching the day when the whole world will recognize the truth and beauty of Judaism and the Jewish people.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at