Thursday, November 4, 2010


In this week's parsha there is a very intriguing statement that seemingly makes little sense. In Breishis (25:28):

כח. וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת עֵשָׂו כִּי צַיִד בְּפִיו וְרִבְקָה אֹהֶבֶת אֶת יַעֲקֹב:
28. And Isaac loved Esau because [his] game was in his mouth, but Rebecca loved Jacob.

How could it be that Isaac loved Esau and Rivka loved Yaakov? Doesn't this go against everything that we think parents should be? Aren't parents supposed to love all their children? The Torah never brings down a superfluous idea, so what is it that we can learn from this one? (See here for a related subject)

Anyway, the first idea we should look at is Rashi. He says on this verse:

בפיו: כתרגומו בפיו של יצחק. ומדרשו בפיו של עשו שהיה צד אותו ומרמהו בדבריו:
 In his mouth: As the Targum renders: into Isaac’s mouth. The Midrashic interpretation is: with Esau’s mouth, for he would entrap him and deceive him with his words. — [From Tanchuma, Toledoth 8]

This understanding goes along quite well with the Seforno's explanation here:

  וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת עֵשָׂו. גַּם אֶת עֵשָׂו, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיָּדַע בְּלִי סָפֵק שֶׁלּא הָיָה שָׁלֵם כְּיַעֲקב.

And Isaac loved Esau: He ALSO loved Esau, even though he knew, without a doubt, that he was not complete like Yaakov.
וְרִבְקָה אהֶבֶת אֶת יַעֲקב. לְבַדּו, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהִכִּירָה בְּרִשְׁעו שֶׁל עֵשָׂו
.And Rivka loved Yaakov: ONLY, because she recognized the wickedness of Esau.

Apparently, Rashi and Seforno think that the best understanding of this verse is that Rivka did not love her son Esau because he was wicked. Also, the only reason Isaac loved his son Esau, according to these commentaries, is because Esau successfully tricked his father into thinking he was righteous.

This idea seems so strange to me for several reasons. First, it completely discards the reading of the verse. Onkles, as well as the verse itself, clearly say that Isaac loved Esau because of the food Esau brought his father. The Midrash comes to tell us how Esau tricked Isaac with deceit, but I do not see that relating to the words of the verse very well. That is why I am more partial to a different explanation that I saw in the Ralbag.

The Ralbag brings down the Seforno and Rashi understanding and agrees with them. However, he gives an alternate understanding of the verse, one more similar to Onkles and the actual verse (brought down in Breishis Rabbah chapter 63). The Ralbag says, "Perhaps the understanding [of this verse] is that Yitzchak (Isaac) loved him (Esau) because Esau would bring him meat (trappings) to eat, for a man is compelled to love those who he accepts purposeful things from.... Rivka loved Yaakov because she saw that he was a very good person." 

The Ralbag, quoting the Midrash Rabba (apparently) is telling us something very fascinating about mothers vs fathers. It seems to be that, according to the second understanding in the Ralbag, Yitzchak (Isaac) knew Esau was wicked, but loved him anyway. Why? Because Esau went out of his way to bring his father delicious meat. Yitzchak appreciated this and was emotionally attached to Esau because of this. Rivka, on the other hand, did not care that Esau brought meat, she saw that Yaakov was more righteous and his righteousness compelled her to favor him. The role of a father, in this scenario, is of a parent that wants to make his son self sufficient and when that happens the father is pleased. Yaakov was in no way self sufficient, that is why his mother compelled him to steal the blessings later in the Parsha. This caused Yitzchak to favor Esau. However, Rivka only cared about the personality and spirituality of her children. Yaakov grew up to be a man of great character and he had a high level of spirituality. Obviously, Yitchak and Rivka loved both their children, but each one had an extra affinity to one of them based on their own personalities. 
What can we take away from this idea? I think the idea is like this. Parents need to be able to relate to all their children. Yitzchak favored Esau and that is why he was going to give him the bracha. Rivka favored Yaakov and that is why she helped him, or compelled him, to steal the bracha. This appears to have been a break down in communication. Imagine if Rivka would have spent extra time with Esau and taught him to be more righteous and less involved with killing. Imagine if Yitzchak had sat with Yaakov and taught him more about the ways of the world. Yaakov would have been able to overcome Lavan's treachery and Esau might have actually been part of the Jewish nation. Unfortunately, that is not how it was meant to be. Yaakov was tricked and Esau fell into his wicked ways. But, the lesson is clear, we must make sure that we notice the weaknesses in children and help them better themselves in those weak areas. 

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