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    As twins, Jack and
    Oskar shared the same
    DNA, the same nature,
    and yet, they emerged
    radically different
    people. Born in
    Trinidad in 1933, they
    were six months old
    when their parents divorced. Oskar went to
    Germany with his Catholic mother, while
    Jack stayed with his Romanian Jewish
    father. Oskar grew up as the Nazis rose to
    power, greeted the school principal with
    “Heil Hitler,” and later joined the Hitler
    Youth movement.
    Jack, meanwhile, always considered
    himself Jewish (though halachically he
    wasn’t), but didn’t understand the
    significance of that identity until he was 15
    years old and was sent to Venezuela to live
    with his aunt. A survivor of Dachau, she
    was the only person from his father’s side to
    make it out alive.
    After the war, Jack’s aunt encouraged him
    to move to Israel and so at 16, he made
    Aliyah and joined the Israeli Navy,
    ultimately becoming an officer. In 1954,
    Jack went to Germany to meet his identical
    twin. They were 21 when they met for the
    first time as adults.

    Psychologist Nancy Segal tells the story of
    that encounter in her book “Indivisible by
    Two: Lives of Extraordinary Twins.” Jack
    and Oskar examined one another as if they
    were looking at an alien, even though the
    other’s appearance should have been
    entirely familiar to them. Their cultural
    differences were as immediately apparent as
    their physical similarities. Casting a wary
    eye at Jack’s Israeli luggage tags, Oskar
    removed them and told his long-lost
    brother to tell others he was coming from
    America, not from Israel.
    Suffice it to say that the first reunion did
    not go well. Two brothers – one raised the
    proud son of a Jewish man who served in
    the Israeli Navy and the other raised a
    German Catholic who had risen in the Nazi
    Youth movement and been taught to hate
    Jews. Because of the language barrier they
    couldn’t communicate much. At the end of
    the visit, they shook hands like strangers
    and Jack set off to San Diego where he lived
    the remainder of his life.
    In 1979, Jack read about a study being
    done on twins and the great debate between
    nature and nurture. He asked if he and his
    brother could participate and thought after
    25 years it might provide another
    opportunity for them to see one another

    and develop a relationship.
    They met at the Minneapolis airport
    and to their amazement discovered
    they were wearing the exact same
    thing – a white sports jacket, similar
    shirt and wire- rimmed glasses.
    During the study, they learned that
    they had so much in common. Both
    were stubborn and arrogant, both
    fiercely competitive. Both read books
    from back to front, both sneezed
    incredibly loudly, they walked in a
    similar fashion, and they both wore
    rubber bands around their wrists.
    And yet, with all that nature gave them in
    common, nurture had made them different.
    They could never agree on issues about
    Israel and her enemies or who was
    responsible for World War II. Oskar’s
    repeated reference to German soldiers as
    ‘we’ infuriated Jack. In a BBC documentary
    about the twins, Jack describes that they
    tried to like each other and enjoy each
    other’s company but there was always
    something in the background that they
    could not tolerate about one another. Jack
    died a few years ago at 82 years old. Oskar
    passed away in 1997
    As twins, Esav and Yaakov shared the
    same DNA, the same nature, and yet,
    they emerged radically different people.
    One became a patriarch of our people
    and the other a great villain of Jewish
    History, the progenitor of Edom, the
    exile in which we remain until this very
    Rashi and the Rashbam both explain
    that the name Esav comes from עשוי
    which means complete or finished
    product. The simple way to understand
    this is as a superficial description of
    Esav’s appearance. He was physically
    mature, covered in hair and appeared
    complete, fully grown as an adult.
    However, perhaps Esav’s name and its
    implication about his being complete is
    not just about his physique but much
    more importantly about his spirit and
    approach to life. In his Menachem
    Tziyon, Rav Menachem Bentzion Zaks
    points out that the Torah describes that
    this image of Esav is consistent with the
    Torah’s description of him as a “man
    who knows hunting, a man of the field.”
    Esav remains a primitive, boorish man
    who spent his days among the animals,
    doing what animals do – hunting in the
    field. Esav sees himself from the start as
    a finished product. What you see is
    what you get. He had no interest or
    ambition to grow, change, or improve.
    He was עשוי, complete from the start.
    Rav Zaks suggests that Yaakov’s name
    reflects the exact opposite quality, the
    insatiable appetite for growth and

    improvement. The root of Yaakov’s name is
    “akeiv,” or “heel.” When we walk, the heel is
    the first part of the foot that touches the
    ground, says Rav Zaks. It represents the
    beginning, the first step, with much to
    follow. Akeiv means the beginning of a
    process with much greater things to come
    as in the expression, “ikvesa de-Meshicha,
    heel of the Messianic Era.”
    Esav and Yaakov are twins who enter the
    world with the same DNA, the same
    “nature,” but who bring contrasting
    attitudes towards their “nurture.” Esav is
    satisfied with who he is from the start while
    Yaakov feels entering the world is just the
    first of many steps and journeys to come.
    Indeed, while Esav is spiritually stagnant,
    remains immature and undeveloped,
    Yaakov spends his life struggling, wrestling
    and thereby growing. In our Parsha, he
    overcomes his shy nature to assert himself,
    first by obtaining the birthright and then
    collecting on it by going entirely against his
    nature and tricking his father into giving
    him a beracha. Later, before his reunion
    with Esav, we will read of his encounter
    with the angel with whom he wrestles the
    entire evening and triumphs. The shy,
    passive yeshiva bochur who is characterized
    as sitting learning diligently in the tent,
    emerges the strong, dynamic, assertive
    patriarch and leader who is among the
    greatest role models of our people.
    Esav chooses to remain עשוי but Yaakov
    puts one foot in front of the other, walks,
    jogs and ultimately runs to his destiny as
    Yisrael. No matter what our nature, we are
    not finished products. We can nurture
    ourselves to grow, improve, and change in
    all areas of our lives. We are Bnai Yisrael,
    we are the children of Yaakov.
    Jack and Oskar did not leave legacies
    based on the “natures” they shared in
    common like sneezing loudly or by the way
    they walked. Because of how they were
    nurtured, Jack left a legacy of having been
    an officer in the Israeli Navy while Oskar
    left of a legacy of having been an enthusiastic
    member of the Nazi youth.
    We all have natures that predispose us, but
    through the way we nurture our lives,
    ultimately, we can choose who we are and
    the legacy we leave.