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Toldot. Does Birth-Order Matter?

Does birth order matter?

Pop-psychology attributes specific characteristics to the oldest child, middle-child, youngest-child, and many of us feel that these stereotypes ring with some truth.

The topic that stands out in this week's parasha is the "bechora", the "birthright" or the special status of the first-born. Yaakov, the second-child is born holding Esau's heel – Rashi tells us that he is trying to pull Esav back - and his early life seems to be an attempt to usurp Esav's firstborn status: He purchases the firstborn rights from his older brother, and masquerades as his older brother to receive his father's blessing, proclaiming "I am Esav, your firstborn." Does Jacob want to be Esav, or does he just want to be first?

So this should be a great discussion around the Shabbat table:

  • Does birth order matter?

  • Which number child are you? Has it affected your life? How?

  • Why does Yaakov want to be the "bechor" (firstborn)?

  • Can a person shift his status to presume a birth ranking that is different from the biological birth-order? In other words, can Yaakov become "bechor"?

What is the Birthright?