After much difficulty, Yitzhak and Rivka have children-twins. They develop very differently from the outset.
The older brother Esau becomes a hunter, trapper, rapist, and murderer. The younger twin Yaakov becomes an academic. They did not get along even in their youth.
After a day of plundering and pillaging, Esau returns to his brother who is cooking hamin (a lentil stew cooked for a long time usually eaten on Shabbat of which different variations exist from communities around the world) and demands he give it over to him. Yaakov gives him the stew in exchange for his rights and status as firstborn.
Yitzhak was getting on in years and wants to give his son Esau a special bracha (blessing) for material success. Rivka, understanding who their son really is, helps Yaakov to fake being his brother in order to get the bracha instead.
Yaakov takes the bracha and Yitzhak gives Esau a different but less than ideal bracha instead. Esau vows to kill his brother.
The two brothers go in different directions to seek wives. Yaakov goes to Aram (Syria) to meet his mother’s family. Esau had already taken two wives from the locals, but took another wife by his uncle Yishmael.
Primogeniture is a rather weird concept by American standards. Logically, there should be no reason a sibling should get preference just because of birth order. This parshah has an example of a boy who should be cut out entirely, much less given special honor due to his whole several minutes longer on the Earth.
Hazal (our early sages) tell us that there is an extra word, et, in the commandment to honor your parents. It actually appears twice, once before mom and once before dad. That word means you should give respect to your older siblings as well. There is something about the fact they’ve been in the world longer than you that commands respect, and the reason is quite simple. That person, no matter how short a time they arrived before you, has a formative role in your development. This is even more true by the first kid, who has to deal with being the subject of the new parents trying to figure out what to do with this new person in their lives. It’s easy to make a baby, but difficult to raise one. Basically, the oldest child lives their life in a petri dish until they are 18. You benefit from the path they have blazed, at least theoretically.
I thought it appropriate to mention given that I believe many Hillels and JSU’s will be doing their elections shortly. It is definitely smart since the newly elected will have an opportunity to learn from those who served before. I’d just like to give props to anyone who serves on a Hillel or JSU board. Sometimes, it’s like trying to get a tar baby to walk in the door. The fact that you can keep them going on campuses that might be apathetic to Jewish causes. You have certainly earned my respect, and I think those of you coming in can stand to benefit from their experiences.