A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
Names in the Bible are not just names, When the twins, Yaakov and Eisav (Jacob and Esau) are born, their names don’t only reflect their physical traits but spiritual ones as well. Eisav’s name is from the word “asui”, meaning, made or finished. Yaakov was named from the word “eikev,” meaning heel. Yes, Eisav’s name reflected his mature physical features and Yaakov was born grasping Eisav’s heel, but that is not the complete story.
Eisav’s philosophy in life was one of “asui”, “I’m finished, I’m done growing. Whatever I am today is what I will always be.” Not surprisingly, since he was not future-oriented, he didn’t value his first-born status and was ready to sell it.
Yaakov, however, always saw himself at the heel of life, at the bottom of a growth trajectory, which, throughout his life, he strived to climb day in and day out. Yaakov knows that even if today he has nothing, that does not reflect tomorrow.
An Eisav worldview is one of complacency and accepting today’s experience as tomorrow’s reality. No hope of change, no struggle to change. Yaakov, on the other hand, sees today as only a tiny start, a small step on the ladder of life. He is always struggling, always growing, always changing. You’ll recall, that in chapter 32 Yaakov received another name after he struggled and prevailed in the fight with an angel. The angel gave him the name “Yisrael – because you struggled against angel and people, and you prevailed.” Wouldn’t we expect his name to reflect the words “you prevailed”! After all, that’s what was so noticeable about this encounter. Instead, the name “Yisrael” comes from the word, “sarisa”—you struggled, you wrestled. Yaakov isn’t about the final success, he’s about the struggle to get there. Yaakov is all about the process, growth, change, never about the final product.
The Yaakov attitude is at the heart of a believing person’s life. We don’t believe that we are locked into today’s reality or must accept today’s limited position as a given. We are forward-thinking, always seeing hope, and working towards a beautiful future. This quality becomes incredibly obvious and incredibly important when raising children. We have to remember that a stage is just a stage. Our children are works in progress who are constantly growing and changing. Today’s limits, today’s struggles, are just part of the process of maturation. Feeling stuck has no place in our families.
When we’re in the middle of a challenging phase it’s easy to forget that this is temporary, but the message from Yaakov is to see ourselves always at the heel, always climbing higher and higher. We, and our children, keep putting one foot in front of the other. We keep striving, we keep building, and one day at a time we grow.
Our job is to share this mindset with our children. Our kids pick up on the labels and limitations, and they sometimes believe they are defined by them. “I’m not good at learning,” “I’m irresponsible,” “I’m disruptive,” and more. We want to be the voice that reminds our children that today’s struggles lead to tomorrow’s victories. None of us are limited to today’s reality. There is no magic moment when we pass or fail life, rather until the day we die we are in the process, winning some, losing some, but always changing, always growing.
We can all use this reminder that life isn’t static. However rough today was, tomorrow can be better. Both names, Yaakov and Yisrael, remind us to embrace growth, focus on the process of development, and never succumb to the static fatalism of Eisav. This is a message for all of us, mothers who sometimes feel stuck in a difficult stage of parenting or life, and for us to share with our children who need to be reminded that today’s mistakes are the stepping stones to tomorrow’s growth.