“And the children struggled within her.”
– Genesis 25:22, JPS 1917 Tanach
Rebecca had twins, who were named Jacob and Esau. They were at odds with each other even within the womb. Their struggle depicts the internal battle within ourselves: the conflict between the yetzer tov (good inclination) and the yetzer harah (the evil inclination). From this perspective, we can relate to the struggle, since it is a challenge faced by every individual, to aspire towards the good, while rejecting the bad (Isaiah 7:15).
“Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23, JPS 1917 Tanach). Elsewhere it is written, that the two nations will be diametrically opposed to each other, inasmuch that the ascendancy of one will be in tandem with the downsliding of the other, and visa versa. Therefore, there is no peaceful coexistence between the two (Megillah 6a).
This further exemplifies the nature of the battle between the good and evil inclinations within every human being; the lure of the yetzer hara detracts from the good that a person may aspire towards, so that often there can be no compromise; rather, the soul is given an opportunity in the moment to choose between the two.
“A mitzvah performed will lead to the prevalency of the yetzer tov within a person, to be inclined towards more performance of good deeds. Whereas an aveirah (sin) committed would have the consequence of negatively influencing a person towards letting his yetzer hara gain potency over his actions, without making as strong an effort to resist.
Jacob was more inclined, as an ish tam (wholesome man) to live in a righteous manner; yet, Esau was more influenced by his own yetzer hara; subsequently, he did not choose the path of rejecting his evil nature, in favor of the good; rather, he gave in to a way of life dominated by his baser instincts. May G-d make us more like Jacob.
“Do not seek after your own heart, and your own eyes, which compel you to go astray” (Numbers 15:39). Also, “guard your heart in diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). We should be aware of the choices we make in regard to our thought, speech, and behavior; even our thoughts have the potential to influence us for good or bad. When faced with the many nisyanos (challenges) in our lives, we are being given the opportunity to renew ourselves, by subduing our yetzer harah (evil inclination), for the sake of choosing the good.