Parshas Toldos

The Torah tells us that Yaakov Avinu was a pure person who sat and learned Torah (see Targum and Rashi) and that Eisav was a man of the field and a hunter. The Torah tells us that Yitzchok loved Eisav because he hunted animals for him to eat, and that Rivka loved Yaakov. Since the Torah seems to be singling out that Yitzchok loved Eisav because he hunted food for him, it would definitely seem the Torah is saying that this is the singular reason for Yitzchok’s love for Eisav. The obvious question is: how could such a tzadik as Yitzchok love someone who was such a Rasha for such a petty reason as a little bit of meat?

When the Passuk tells us that Yitzchok loved Eisav there is no indication that Yitzchok did not like Yaakov or even loved him any less than Eisav. The only reason we tend to assume so is because the Passuk then stresses that Rivka loved Yaakov. Since the Passuk doesn’t state any reason as to why Rivka loved Yaakov it would seem that the Passuk is trying to emphasize that Rivka and Yitzchok each had their favourite. This assumption is further enhanced by the fact that the Passuk doesn’t give any particular reason why Rivka loved Yaakov. The passuk makes it seem that Rivka loved Yaakov as opposed to Eisav.

However since the Passuk doesn’t spell out clearly these conclusions, perhaps we can explain the Passuk differently. Perhaps the Passuk is telling us that Yitzchok loved both of his children, Yaakov and Eisav. However if the Passuk would just tell us that we would be left to question how was it that Yitzchok was able to love such a rasha as Eisav? Therefore the Passuk tells us how Yitzchok was able to find the good in Eisav, he focused on the fact that Eisav would hunt meat for him. In this contrast the Passuk tells us that Rivka loved Yaakov. The Passuk just says that Rivka loved Yaakov without any reason in order to emphasize that Rivka loved only Yaakov. Eisav was a rasha therefore Rivka could not love him. The Passuk doesn’t even say that Rivka loved Yaakov because he was a tzadik, because Rivka didn’t need a reason to love Yaakov. The only reason she didn’t love Eisav was because he was a Rasha, had she been able to focus more on his good aspects she would have loved him just like Yitzchok did.

From Rivka Imeinu we learn how a parent is meant to love a child not for any other reason other than because they are their child. From Yitzchok Avinu we learn the importance of not focussing only on the negative even if that it is the essence of the person. As long as there is some good in a person we must search it out and thus love them. Yitzchok may have been well aware of Eisav's nature, but as long as he didn’t know of any reason to be obligated to hate him he would find a reason to love him.

These are two extremely important steps in parenting. Firstly: a parent should love a child just because they are their child without needing any additional reasons to love. Secondly: even if there is reason not to love one must search for a reason to yes love their child. A parent's love to a child must be unconditional.


The narrative of Rivka’s difficult pregnancy, with which this week’s Sedra opens, relates the antecedents of an everlasting struggle central to Jewish history. In the Midrashim (see Rashi), Chazal trace much of the difficulties experienced by Klal Yisroel throughout the ages back to the fact that Rivka felt pains from movement in her womb whenever she passed Batei Avoda Zara or Batei Medrash. The Torah tells us these pains were great enough to cause Rivka Imeinu to question the value of child bearing. Rivka Imeinu sought out the cause of her pain and went to the Yeshiva of Shem to ask Shem the reason for her suffering. Shem explained to her that she had two children within her, and that there was then already a colossal struggle between them.

The Medrashim seem to imply that the struggle between good and evil predestined Yaakov Avinu for Tzidkus, while Eisav Harasha was destined for Rishus. This implication begs the question of how such predestination can be possible since it contradicts the most basic elements of Bechira Chofshis – Free Will.

This week’s Haftarah provides useful insights that help in answering the question. It opens with a complex idea: Hashem speaks through Malachi Hanavi (the last of the Trei-Asar) and tells us, “Isn’t Eisav a brother to Yaakov… and I have loved Yaakov, and Eisav have I loathed.” The Meforshim all point out that Hashem is clearly trying to emphasize something by prefacing His contrast between Yaakov Avinu and Eisav Harasha with the statement of their being brothers? Otherwise, the Passuk would have simply restated that they were brothers, or better yet, left out any reference to their being brothers since that is an already well known fact. What is it that the Passuk is trying to convey?

Most of the Mefarshim (see Metzudas Dovid, Malbim, and others) understand this as adding to the contrast: brothers have the same parents, the same background, and usually grow up within the same surroundings. Therefore the Nevuah is emphasizing that these relationships of love and hate are not related to Yaakov’s or Eisav’s lineage, nor to any other mere linkage of their roots etc, but rather due to who they became. Perhaps this explanation can be taken ever so slightly further: if brothers have the same exact background then it stands to reason that they have the same chinuch and the same opportunities to succeed. The only reason one should have turned out a tzadik and the other a rasha is because of the decisions they made – because of their own free will.


While it is true that Yaakov and Eisav had entirely different personalities they each could have succeeded. Chazal tell us that someone who has violent instincts should channel them to shechita and milla. Chazal are telling us that we are always in control of how we act, and that every interest and talent we may have can be utilized for the good. Eisav was powerful and could have used his power to lead a Torah-true nation. Eisav may have had wild tendencies, but he could have used such inclinations for good purposes. Eisav didn’t do anything of the sort. Instead, he chose the path of evil. Yaakov could have used his simplicity to remain as he was. Instead, he channeled it to stay pure of sin and he put all his efforts into the pursuit of Hashem and his Torah. Yaakov could have allowed his soft spoken nature to keep him from success. He chose to pursue success and to utilize his soft spoken personality toward the achievement of unyielding self control.

Rivka certainly felt overwhelming emotions of good and evil mixed together in her womb. Where this evil would end up and where this good would end up, however, remained a mystery until each of these twin brothers with identical backgrounds chose their own separate ways. While at first sight the saga of Yaakov and Eisav’s birth might have seemed to contradict the idea of Free Will, it is actually the paradigm and epitome of Free Will. Yaakov and Eisav exemplified how two brothers growing up in the very same home with the very same parents could still each choose his very own way for the good or the bad.

May Hashem give us each the strength, fortitude, and guidance to always take our abilities and utilize them for the good, and may we always choose the path of good.


Yitzchak Avinu feels he is nearing death. Before he passes on, he wants to transmit the Brocho Avrohom Avinu gave to him to Eisav his son. Yitzchok, however, doesn’t simply call Eisav and give him the Brocho. He instead summons him and asks him to prepare a meal. Why doesn't Yitzchok Avinu just give him the Brocho and be finished with it? Furthermore, Yitzchok tells him “prepare me the meal the way I like it so as to enable my soul to bless you”. This statement has two inherent difficulties: 1) how does Yitzchok's eating enable him to give Eisav a Brocho? 2) Why does Yitzchok, one of the holiest people to have lived, require Eisav to make the food the way he "loves" it?

The Seforno explains that while Yitzchok may not have understood how bad Eisav was, he nonetheless realized that his son wasn't a Tzadik. Yitzchok therefore felt the necessity of having Eisav perform Mitzvos so as to enable him to bless his son. By stipulating that Eisav should make it for him the way he loved it, Yitzchok Avinu was adding another dimension to Eisav's act of Kibud Av – he was making special demands that increased the Mitzva and made it all the more meaningful. The Baal Haturim (and the Medrash) adds that "the way I love it" is a reference to Shechita and all its sub Mitzvos (Kisuy hadam etc.).

Yitzchok Avinu didn't ask Eisav to go learn a few hours or to do Chessed. Yitzchok Avinu focused on Eisav's strong points – on his talents. Yitzchok Avinu tried to channel Eisav's hunting skills to Kibud Av. Yitzchok Avinu understood the only conduit, if any, that could be used in order to have Eisav as part of the Mesorah would be his own talents. Yitzchok understood that Eisav needed to be encouraged and appreciated in order to allow "brocho" to befall him.

While Eisav didn't end up getting Bircas Avrohom, he did receive a Brocho from Yitzchok Avinu. We well know through our sufferings that Yitzchok's Brocho to Eisav did materialize.

Fighting with our children will not facilitate Brocho. Only appreciation and encouragement will allow them to flourish. While sometimes children need to be reprimanded and chastised, the overall approach must remain appreciation and encouragement. We must appreciate their talents and we must encourage those talents in such a way that they are translated into Mitzvos.


This week's Haftorah opens with a theme that seems very similar to that of the Sedra. Hashem tells us (through Malachi) that He loves us and that He hates Eisav. However before Hashem tells us this the paasuk tells us "isn't Eisav a brother to Yaakov?" Aside from the poetic wording of the Passuk it is difficult to understand the contrast the passuk is making.

Many of the Meforshim seem to ignore this odd and obvious contrast. The Metzudos Dovid however addresses this issue. The Metzudos Dovid explains the Haftorah starts off by Hashem telling us that he loves us (Bnei Yaakov) and if we are going to ask how He loves us His answer is that Eisav and Yaakov were brothers and He loved Yaakov and hated Eisav. The Metzudos Dovid explains further: the question the Passuk is allowing us to ask is how do we see that Hashem loves us and is bringing us back to our homeland because of who we (ourselves) are? How do we know that Hashem isn't bringing us back merely out of love for our forefathers? To this Hashem answers Yaakov and Eisav were brothers and Hashem only loved Yaakov. If Hashem were to have loved Yaakov because he was the son of Yitzchok and the Grandson of Avrohom then Hashem should have loved Yaakov and Eisav equally.

While the Metzudos Dovid seems to answer our difficulty with theses Pessukim we are nonetheless left with an unanswered difficulty. The Metzudos Dovid answered how we know that Hashem loved Yaakov personally and not just because he was Yitzchok Avinu's son, but it didn't explain how we know that Hashem loves us for who we are and not because we are Yaakov Avinu's children?

In this Nevua of Malachi Hashem is talking to the children of Yaakov Avinu – Klal-Yisroel and to the children of Eisav Horasha – Edom. Hashem however differentiates between us and Edom by the fact that we are descendants from Yaakov, and that Yaakov Avinu Avinu was loved for who he was. Hashem still refers to Edom of today as Eisav and Hashem emphasizes that He hates Eisav for who he is.

Over the centuries there were many Jews who were lost to assimilation. While they and maybe even their children were Halachically Jewish they no longer exist as Jews. An example of this is the vast majority of the ten tribes that seem to have disappeared. There is a discussion in the Gemorah as to whether when we are redeemed the ten tribes will join us. This question is left unsolved and we don't and won't know until the final redemption comes about. What is clear however is that those that associate themselves as Bnei Yaakov and the good that Yaakov represents will surely be redeemed in the final redemption.

It isn't entirely clear nowadays who represents Eisav and what nation holds the title Edom.

We find ourselves in turbulent times. Political tides in the world have changed drastically in the past few years. It is likely that buried in the turbulence is the force representing Edom. We are Jews and we must remember we are Bnei Yaakov and we form an axis of good, while Edom is forming an axis of Evil. We mustn't cling to anything that can be Edom. We as Bnei-Yaakov must cling to each other and to our homeland.

Hashem needs to refine the nations of the world from the forces of Yishmael and Eisav. This refining process may not be pretty. Klal-Yisroel is pure and already refined we must keep ourselves from being drawn into the nations of the worlds mess by focusing on Torah and Mitzvos.