Parenting – The Questions

Oct 30th, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
“The lads grew up and Esau became one who knows trapping, a man of the field; but Jacob was a wholesome man, abiding in tents.” (Genesis 25:27) Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch points out that the verses implies that Esau and Jacob only went their different ways after they grew up. Rav Hirsch believes that Isaac and Rebecca raised and educated the two boys the same way until they were thirteen years old: As long as they were little, no attention was paid to the slumbering difference in their natures, both had exactly the same teaching and educational treatment. Esau could hardly wait for the time when he could throw the old books and a whole purpose of life, behind his back.”

I love Rav Hirsch, but I respectfully, and with great trepidation, disagree. I am convinced that Isaac and Rebecca knew exactly what they were doing. Rebecca certainly knew that the boys were different, but she also insisted that they be raised and educated the same way.

“And Isaac loved Esau for he was also a hunter with his mouth, but Rebecca loves Jacob.” (Verse 28) Imagine, one child is loved “because,” not unconditionally, but for a reason, while the other is loved without condition. How could Esau become anyone other than the man he became?

Esau had to pretend to be someone other than himself to earn Isaac’s love. He knew that Isaac did not love him, but the person he pretended to be. Of course, he became the angry resentful character with whom we are familiar?

The Midrash says that Isaac was so concerned over Esau’s coloration that he did not circumcise him for a few years. Once he realized that it was Esau’s natural color, Isaac decided to wait until Esau was 13, so he could choose circumcision, as Isaac’s older brother, Yishmael, had. When asked at his Bar Mitzvah whether he would agree to be circumcised, Esau refused!

The boy who pretended to be a Tzaddik to earn his father’s love, refused to be circumcised! Did he not expect Isaac to be furious, or at the very least, disappointed?

Why did Rebecca go to Shem and Ever to consult God about her difficult pregnancy? Why did she not simply go to Abraham who lived right there? How do the Sages know that Rebecca went to Shem and Ever?

I have heard numerous lectures about Isaac and Rebecca’s poor parenting skills, but I find it hard to believe that one of the three patriarchs and one of the four matriarchs did not know exactly what they were doing!

What were they doing?

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