Sibling rivalry is too trite a term for the rift between the twin brothers Yaakov and Eisav (Jacob and Esau). The brothers were so completely different, so entirely opposite. Yaakov is the pleasant brother, the righteous one; he sits and learns Torah all day. Eisav is coarser: a hunter and an idol worshiper.
The differences between the siblings were apparent even before their birth when Yaakov kicked inside of his mother's womb every time she passed a house of study and Eisav kicked every time she passed a place of idol worship. When their mother, Rivkah (Rebecca), went to inquire as to the tug of war inside her she was told: "Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from your innards" (Genesis 25: 23).
Indeed two nations, two kingdoms, each based upon a completely different set of principles came from Rivkah. The nation of Yaakov relies upon learning and prayer for success, whereas Eisav's nation relies on the sword. When one nation ascends the throne of greatness the other falls.
The foundation of Yaakov's greatness, of his future children's greatness, stems from the blessings that he received from his father Yitzchak (Isaac). For though Yitzchak didn't plan it that way Yaakov received the greater half of the blessings.
Yitzchak wanted Eisav to receive the better blessings; after all he was the firstborn.
But Rivkah thought otherwise. She saw Eisav's wicked ways and wanted Yaakov to receive the greater half of the blessings.
"Go now to the flock, and take for me from there two choice young goats, and I will make them tasty foods for your father, as he likes. And you shall bring [them] to your father that he may eat, in order that he bless you before his death." (Ibid 9-10). Rivkah instructed Yaakov.
Yaakov follows his mother's advice and lo and behold Yitzchak mistakes him for Eisav, his hunter son. Yaakov receives the blessing that his father had intended for the older brother.
But there is a price that he must pay. For though he did the right thing, Yaakov's actions have an undertone of trickery. And as a tzaddik, a righteous man, Yaakov cannot afford to exude even the tiniest aura of wrongness.
And so Yaakov is forced to leave his hometown. Yaakov runs away from his brother's wrath and finds a temporary home in Padan Aram. There he marries and builds a family and from his father-in-law Lavan he receives words of rebuke: "It is not done so in our place to give the younger one before the firstborn." (Ibid 29:26).
Rachel, Yaakov's desired wife, is exchanged for her elder sister Leah for It is not done so in our place. Firstborn children have are privileged here; they marry first.
The news is a shock to Yaakov. He spent seven years working for Rachel and now he is married to her older sister instead. He works again. Another seven years of shepherding before Rachel becomes his wife.
It is not done so in our place.
Piercing words. Words with a lesson. Words with a price. For all of our deeds are recorded and our actions reconciled in some way.
Translated and adapted by Chaya Sara Ben Shachar