Some of us are old enough to remember The Smothers Brothers variety show on TV, where Tommy Smothers regularly mumbled to his brother, “Well, mom always loved you best.” It was funny, but a little uncomfortable seeing two grown men living in the present but so preoccupied with the past.

Their joke represents a too-often-told story of families torn apart by resentments carried forward over decades and between generations. I see it far too often and it is profoundly saddening.

The Torah reminds us that this is a universal story. Jacob and Esau, twin brothers, had a hugely challenging relationship. There was certainly a sibling rivalry present, with Jacob always trying to overtake his older brother. But on top of that, mom always did like Jacob best. She encouraged and empowered him to manipulate and steal important things from his older brother Esau – his first-born birthright and his dying father’s last blessings.

Jacob had to flee his childhood home because of his brother’s rage, and it would set them both on paths of complete estrangement for decades. Each of them became successful in their lives, and inevitably it became important for them to circle back towards each other.

When they did meet, Jacob was surprised that Esau embraced him with love and not with the point of a sword. “Mom might have loved Jacob best,” but Esau may have recognized that it was his mother’s choice to do so, not Jacob’s. His anger might have been misplaced. And so, Esau chose love and reconnection over a long-simmering resentment.

This is a story of hope. It is never too late.

Shabbat shalom,   Rabbi Allan