Parshas Toldos: Only With Love

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Toldos, after twenty childless years, Yitzchak and Rivka’s twins are born.  Even before the twins are born, their different personalities are apparent in utero, as one would kick and move around when Rivka passed by a house of avodah zarah (idol worship), and the other would do so when she passed a center of Torah learning.  

Upon birth, their physical appearances differed drastically from each other, and the first to emerge was born red and hairy, and named Eisav (from the word עשוי, which means ‘made’ or ‘finished’).  The second to emerge, Yaakov, was born smooth, holding on to his brother’s heel (hence, his name from the root word עקב, heel).  

As the boys grow, וַיִּגְדְּלוּ, הַנְּעָרִים, וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד, אִישׁ שָׂדֶה; וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם, יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים  Eisav is a man of the field, who spends his days trapping and hunting, and Yaakov is a simple man, who dwells in the tents (Bereishis 25:27).  Rashi teaches, in which tents did Yaakov dwell?  ישב אהלים. אָהֳלוֹ שֶׁל שֵׁם וְאָהֳלוֹ שֶׁל עֵבֶרin the tent of Shem and the tent of Ever (i.e.: in the tents of the Torah leaders of that generation).  

The very next pasuk tells us: וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶתעֵשָׂו, כִּיצַיִד בְּפִיו; וְרִבְקָה, אֹהֶבֶת אֶתיַעֲקֹב, and Yitzchak loved Eisav because trappings were in his (Yitzchak’s) mouth, and Rivka loved Yaakov (Bereishis 25:28).  Rashi comments: בפיו. כְּתַרְגּוּמוֹ בְּפִיו שֶׁל יִצְחָק, According to the simple meaning, it is as Onkelos explains: Eisav’s trappings and game were in the mouth of Yitzchak.  Continues Rashi:  וּמִדְרָשׁוֹ בְּפִיו שֶׁל עֵשָׂו, שֶׁהָיָה צָד אוֹתוֹ וּמְרַמֵּהוּ בִדְבָרָיו – according to the Medrash, trappings were in Eisav’s mouth.  This means he would trap and ensnare his father, Yitzchak, with words of deceit and guile. 

How are we to understand that Yitzchak Avinu, the olah temima of the Akeidah, the one who passed the mesorah of Avraham to Yaakov and the Bnei Yisrael, preferred and loved Eisav because trappings were in his mouth?  Would Yitzchak simply prefer the son who knew how to hunt game and who was also an idol worshipper, over Yaakov, who sat in the tents of Torah and would become the bechir she’b’avos (choicest of the patriarchs)?

Rabbi Shalom Rosner teaches, “Many commentators point out that it’s very hard to assume that Yitzchak was really fooled.  Everyone in the world knew that Eisav was a rasha (wicked person)… It’s difficult to imagine that Yitzchak, one of the Avot, was duped and did not realize who Eisav was…   

“The Peninei HaTorah (Rav David Hadad) suggests that Yitzchak knew full well what Eisav was.  That’s why he was so surprised when (later in the parsha) Yaakov, posing as Eisav, used shem Hashem.  Yitzchak knew that Eisav would not use G-d’s name!  

“The Peninei HaTorah informs us of an educational reality here.  When a child leaves the fold of Torah, as long as he or she maintains a relationship with either parent or a teacher, it’s the parent or educator’s job to do whatever they can to continue that relationship as much as possible, as tenuous as it is.  Therefore, when the child is ready to come back, the relationship will be there.  As long as the child has a little respect for the parent or teacher, it is crucial to maintain focus on the relationship and give it some time and patience.  If, however, all contact is cut off between child and parent (or teacher), then most hope is lost and the child is in a very unhealthy and worrisome place.

“As we know, the one mitzvah Eisav did excel in was honoring his father and mother.  He put on his Shabbos clothes whenever he wanted to see his father.  Therefore, the Peninei HaTorah suggests that perhaps Yitzchak showed Eisav love not despite his evil inclination, but because of it – because Yitzchak understood Eisav’s nature and ways, and hoped that through this love, Eisav could be saved and brought back… May we learn this lesson from Yitzchak, be patient, and be able to positively influence even the most challenging children” (Shalom Rav, v.I, p.123-125).  

There is a well known story about the legendary mechanech, Rabbi Dovid Trenk z’l (d.2019, age 77 years, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Moreshes Yehoshua of Lakewood, NJ), who was famous for his deep and genuine love, care and concern for all of his talmidim.  

It was Friday night, leil Shabbos, when R’ Trenk was made aware that three of his talmidim had gotten hold of a car and went to the movies.  Upon hearing this, R’ Trenk ran the few miles to the movie theater and found the boys in the darkness, watching the movie.  Their astonishment, when seeing their Rebbe suddenly seated next to them (on leil Shabbos!), was beyond description.  Rabbi Trenk looked at the boys, leaned over and simply said, “I just wanted you to know that the popcorn here is not kosher. You may not have known that.  A gut Shabbos.”  Then he exited the theater and walked back home.  

Yitzchak Avinu knew who Eisav was.  Yet in loving Eisav for the game that he hunted, and fed to  his father, Yitzchak teaches us a beautiful lesson in chiunch ha’bonim.  Yitzchak loved Eisav specifically because of this talent of his: hunting tasty meats and serving his father with kibud av.  Yitzchak focused on what Eisav did well, and loved and encouraged him for that, and kept a connection with him because of it.  

In regard to parents who severed their relationship with a child who had veered from the path of Torah, the gaon and gadol ha’dor, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman zt’l, remarked “In most cases, the parents’ actions are rooted in simple gaavah (haughtiness).  Parents are embarrassed by their child’s actions, and fear their standing in the community will be harmed by the rebellious child.  They find it more convenient to do that incorrect thing by severing their relationship with their wayward child.  These parents are undergoing a truly difficult nisayon, but giving up on their child is not a sacrifice for Hashem!  It is wrong for parents to cut the connection due to their own gaavah and inability to deal with the situation” (Reb Aharon Leib, p.169).

And Yitzchak loved Eisav because trappings were in his mouth.

בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום


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