What is the privilege of being born first thereby acquiring the prestigious title of bechor? It means that you can have a special bond with Hashem, to serve Hashem in the Beis Hamikdash, to have Hashem’s name placed upon you in the place which Hashem chose to dwell His name there. This description fits a Yaakov Avinu and not Esav, for we found Esav openly despising such an avodah as a bechor. The birthright truly belonged to the tzadik Yaakov. As to the question that he wasn’t biologically a bechor, at this time in history it did not matter who was technically a bechor but rather who was morally fitting to claim the title bechor. Proof of such a concept that bechor does not automatically merit you with all its privileges can be derived from the passuk above. Wasn’t darkness deemed the bechor by the fact it was created first. Yet Hashem chose to place His name on the light which was created afterwards for it symbolized righteousness and virtuousness.
Yaakov pointed out to Esav this concept of bechor with the words מכרה כיום את בכורתך לי Sell to me your birthright “like the day”. What was Yaakov’s intention by saying “like the day”? Rashi says Yaakov demanded from Esav a clear deal like the day, void of any deceit, trickery, or strings attached. The Skulener Rebbi explains that Yaakov was answering the unspoken question of Esav how can one sell a bechorah? The answer is כיום just like we find in creation ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום אחד. The day is composed of darkness and light, and the night has the status bechor. Yet, being born first does not insure the outcome that Hashem will place His name by your deeds and lifestyle. In fact the non bechor, the day, received Hashem’s name and affirmation because of its righteousness. So you Esav as well can sell me your bechora as proven from the first day of creation.
So too in our scenario of Kerias Yam Suf we find the malach claiming his priority of bechor over Bnei Yisrael from the fact that in Maaseh Bereishis he was created first. The answer was in the sighting of Yosef’s aron. Yosef was not born a bechor, yet he merited to have gained the bechora from Reuvain who was. In Pesikta Rabasi 12 it says
עשו היה בכור ובמעשיו הרעים איבד את בכורתו יוסף הוא היה הקטן ובמעשים הטובים זכה לבכורה יבואו מעשיו הטובים ויפרעו מן עשו שהיה בכור ואיבד את בכורתו במעשים הרעים.
The Torah calls Yosef a bechor )Devarim 33,17). Just as the bechor merits a double portion, so too Yosef merited having his two children granted the title of Shevatim, Efrayim and Menashe. Hashem sometimes uses only the virtue scale in order to measure who is most deserving. Many a time Mr. Second becomes Mr. First because of his outstanding conduct. Here too the coffin of Yosef demonstrated that biological order does not necessarily make the grade of Hashem’s choice. Yosef like the day, merited to have Hashem associate His name within his name, יהוסף, (Sotah 10b). That association alone elevates one into the status of bechor in Hashem’s regard. So too with the mesiras nefesh of Yisrael jumping into the Yam Suf, it was Yisrael, theאתם קרויים אדם, who merited to be called Hashem’s bechor, even though the malach appointed over the sea was created before hand as Mr. First.
This same replay of Yaakov’s explanation with the words מכרה כיום was reenacted at Kereas Yam Suf in the passuk ויושע ה’ ביום ההוא את ישראל מיד מצרים (Shmos 14,30). Why did the Torah find it necessary to writeביום ההוא which seems superfluous? It could very well be that these words are alluding to Esav’s selling of the bechora with the explanation of the sale’s validity being proven through ביום ההוא that first day of creation. Here too the passuk is saying that Hashem saved Am Yisrael by splitting the sea by disputing the malach’s claim of older age with the claim found at theיום ההוא. For on that very first day it became evident that bechorah goes to the one with the most virtue and righteousness.
The gemarrah in Chulin 7 relates another sort of Keriyas Yam Suf, of Rav Pinchus Ben Yair who while fulfilling the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim came across a river that posed an impediment in his path. The dialogue between him and the malach appointed over the River Genaee was as follows. Rav Pinchus commanded from the river to split its waters. The malach answered that just as you are going to achieve the will of your creator, so too I am fulfilling the duty of my creator by keeping my waters flowing. The difference between my mitzvah and yours is the outcome. It is questionable if you will actually fulfill the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim at all for the captors might not accept the ransom. In contrast, I am definitely fulfilling the mitzvah at this very moment. In such a scenario the definite outcome overrides the skeptical. To this logical argument, Rav Pinchus’s response was with a threat. If you don’t split your waters you will be dry forever. The waters immediately split.
The response of Rav Pinchus to the claim of the river is very perplexing. In truth there was no logical response to the valid proof brought by the malach, only a threat. The Maharsha comes and explains that in reality there was a logical answer. In fact the malach himself delivered the answer when he stated your mitzvah outcome is a ספק however mine in contrast isודאי. It is man’s ability of bechirah which elevates the life of the human over nature. Nature and malachim have no free choice, man does. The fact that the choice stands a fifty percent rate of success adds to the greatness of Man over the malach. And to prove Man’s crown of power over the malach even if the success of the mitzvah fulfillment is in doubt, it is Man who has power over the river and can dry it up and not vice versa.
Sometimes one looks at himself as being in the No. 15th percentile of individuals with limited talents, intellect and avodas Hashem if not less than that. This poor self concept compromises one’s drive to succeed to be the best you can. For although there might exist millions of people with higher intelligence, quality middos and exceptional personality, if you become the best you can then you are No. 1 in Hashem’s eyes. If one uses his bechira to the best of his ability then he has attained greatness that few people can reach. Some humans are born on top of the mountain and some at the bottom. Realize that both individuals have to climb up the mountains. The individual at the bottom must climb the mountain in front of him. The one born on top of the mountain has another mountain to ascend that towers above yours. You might not see it from your standing point but it is there with the same height and weather conditions as yours. The only difference is his second mountain is in the clouds and yours is in the mud. This is hinted in the passuk מי יעלה בהר ה’. The word בהר can be read ב’ הר two mountains. One mountain for the individual who Hashem put him on earth in the mud at the foot of the earthly mountain, and the other Hashem brought him into this world at the foot of the heavenly mountain. Both of your climbs do not guarantee that you will reach the top or even the half way mark. It all depends on your bechira and your commitment to choose Hashem. Just remember the climb for each one is measured according to how high you chose to climb. Your mountain climb from the mud can get you a place in Gan Eden even a higher than the upper mountain climber. Hashem places His name on those individuals who chose to be close to Him every day no matter how difficult and challenging the choices. It’s not about whether you were born on top or bottom of the mountain. It matters only the distance you have climbed. What matters is מי יקום במקום קדשו how much holiness you increase from your starting point.