Weekly Pre-Shabbos D’var Torah from Rabbi Gutstein

D’Var Torah:

In the beginning of today’s Parsha, we read, “and the lads grew up, and Eisav became a man of the field, and Ya’akov was a whole person, living in tents.” Rashi explains that while Ya’akov and Eisav were small, they were not distinguishable in their behavior and nobody could tell what their nature was. Once they turned 13, Ya’akov set out for the Houses of Torah study and Eisav set out for idolatry. He was also a robber and murderer.


One of the difficult questions in this Parsha is how does a marriage of two such holy people as Yitzchak and Rivka produce a child the likes of Eisav. While it is true that Avraham produced Yishmael, who was far different than his father – he was violent and wild – but Yishmael was not the son of Avraham and Sarah. He was the son of Avraham and Hagar. So, one can say that his character was influenced by his mother, who had weaknesses in her character. The Torah also teaches us that Yishmael repented in his later years. So, he still has some of Avraham’s character within himself.

But, Eisav was a twin of Ya’akov and he had two righteous parents – Yitzchak and Rivka. Yet, Eisav grew up to be a womanizer, a robber, a murderer, a man of the sword and he never repented from those evil traits. So, how do we explain Eisav’s behavior?

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch comments that the Torah is never afraid to make note of the “shortcomings” of our great leaders. Nobody is perfect and they learned and we can learn from their “shortcomings”. The Torah is making a point that the Eisav’s wayward behavior was the fault of Yitzchak and Rivka. Eisav was not Ya’akov. They were different from the moment of birth, despite the fact that they were twins. They had different personalities and different interests.

Eisav was an outdoorsman and Ya’akov enjoyed studying. A scholar should receive training that suits his outlook and scholarly abilities. The athletic and physically committed student should receive a different form of education. Both must be in the tradition of the Torah. Both forms of education must have the goal of producing a moral and Torah observant Jew. But, the methods and subjects taught should differ from one another.

Yitzchak and Rivka did not do that. They gave both Ya’akov and Eisav the same education. By forcing Eisav to learn on the same track as Eisav, Yitchak and Rivka unintentionally promoted Eisav’s defection from their tradition and way of life.

Parents have an obligation to give their children a proper Torah education. But, not every child should attend the same school that his/her siblings attend, nor should they necessarily take the same courses and pursue the same profession. Just because one child wants to learn in a Kollel, does not mean that every child should learn in a Kollel. Just because one wants to be a doctor does not mean that the sibling must be a doctor. Placing everybody in the same system does a disservice and harm to many children.

King Solomon said, “חנוך לנער – teach a child according to his way.” Teach a child something that they can appreciate and enjoy in a manner that is fitting for that child.

By forcing children into a specific framework of education, we are almost guaranteeing a certain amount of failure and disappointment. Everybody has to do what is right for their children – not what is right for somebody else’s child. People are terrified about what other people will think . . . what will happen when it is time for the child to get married. Those should not be considerations. One does not sacrifice a child just because of what others think. It’s none of their business.

The words of King Solomon said 3000 years ago and the commentary of Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch – written in the 19th century – are both on target even now – in the 21st century. It is important that we pay attention to them.