The Torah paints twins Jacob and Esau almost as caricatures of diverging personalities: Esau is the rugged outdoors-man, while Jacob is the gentle home-body. Throughout their childhood, these stereotypes are perpetuated by their surroundings.
But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the twins don’t fit so neatly into the boxes assigned to them. Indeed, Jacob - whom the Torah calls “a simple man” (Genesis 25:27) when we first meet him - becomes one of the most complex figures in all of Jewish tradition.
How easy it is to make assumptions about people based on labels and imperfect first impressions. It is only when we delve beneath surface stereotypes that we are able to authentically engage and get to know someone, uncovering and appreciating the deep complexity present within every human.
Rabbi Leah Fein is the Hillel campus rabbi at Syracuse University.