Who was he really? Jacob or Esau? His originally uncomplicated, transparently simple personality, described as is tam, has been compromised by his cunning maneuverings, first to deprive his older brother of his birthright by exploiting his exhaustion, and then by his subterfuge to take for himself the blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau. The gentle, innocent Jacob, the sheltered homebody (lit: tent-dweller), had become indistinguishable from his brother the hunter, not hesitating to entrap his prey for his own benefit.
The resolution of Jacob’s psycho spiritual inner conflict was to occur many years later, and is probably the real meaning of his life and death struggle with the angel on the dark night of the soul prior to his terrifying confrontation with his soul.
Most of us, to a lesser or greater extent, share Jacob’s struggle. We have all disowned aspects of our personality as a result of injuries we have suffered growing up, or as a consequence of what we have been taught. Parts of us are repressed by fear, guilt or the influence of parents and teachers. Like Jacob, we sometimes catch glimpses of who we are in dreams or in moments of crisis. These flashes of awareness torment us with the realization that we do not really know which is our authentic I-ness [anokhi]. Because the resolution of this kind of inner, existential conflict is always challenging and often very painful, many of us are content to sleep our way through life, lying at the foot of the ladder that leads to greater awareness and to the attainment of our higher selves. Tragically, like Jacob, at the time of his great dream, we are unaware of what we are missing when we have abandoned our quest for psychological and spiritual authenticity.
Ultimately, Jacob was fortunate. A painful transformative encounter compelled him to integrate the various parts of his personality, causing him to become a fully realized, but wounded individual. It is a great shame that most of us fail to meet the challenge of integrating our disowned spiritual potential, and never quite realizing just how great we can be.