| Toldot

Our Sages were no respecters of persons. When they felt a wrong was committed, they called it out – be that person Noach, Avraham, Moshe or anyone else. They took little pleasure in pointing out the faults of others. Rather, understanding the Torah to be a guidebook for all Jews for all times, they were compelled to point out mistakes made by the greats of our tradition. We are to emulate our greats where appropriate but at the same time learn from their mistakes lest we repeat them[1].

“And the youths grew up, and Eisav was a skilled hunter, ish sadeh, a man of the field, and Yaakov was an ish tam, a wholesome man, yoshev ohalim, dwelling in tents” (Breisheet 25:27).

The Torah seemingly highlights the fundamental difference between Yaakov and Eisav, one apparent as they began to mature. Following in the footsteps of Nimrod, Eisav was a hunter, destined to disdain his covenantal role and the responsibilities of being the eldest. He would marry Hittite women causing grief to both his parents (Breisheet 26:34-35). This man of the field plotted to kill his brother. He would be following in the ways of  Kayin, who killed his brother when “they were in the field” (Breisheet 3:8).

Yaakov, on the other hand, dwelt at home in his tent. He understood that a life of morality requires restrictions, and study. Years later G-d would speak to Moshe from the tent and Bilaam, seeing the tents of the Jewish people, would praise their way of life.

One dwells in the field away alone and it is a place of great danger. It is a large empty place where one can attack and even kill others away from the watchful eyes of others. It is a place where there are no societal norms to restrain oneself. “Yaakov's sons, having heard the news [of Dinah’s rape], came in from the field. The men were distressed and very angry” (Breisheet 34: 7) and soon thereafter slaughtered the people of Shechem, causing great distress to their father Yaakov, the tent dweller. “A man came upon him and behold he [Yosef] was lost in the field” (Breisheet 37:15) Lost in the field, Yosef will soon find himself in a pit and sold to Egypt.

“But if the man comes upon the engaged girl in the open country, and the man lies with her by force, only the party who lay with her shall die, but you shall do nothing to the girl” (Devarim 22: 25-26) as out in the field there is no one to hear the pleas for help, just as no one heard the pleas of Yosef as he cried out from the pit.

By noting that Eisav is a man of the field the Torah foretells the trajectory of his life – and it is not destined to be a good one. Or perhaps not.

“And Yitzchak went out walking in the field toward evening” (Breisheet 24:63). Yitzchak too was a man of the field – but his field had a very different feel. For Yitzchak the field was also a place to escape from society and its norms. To escape in order to do better. A place to reflect, to meditate, to pray.

The field allows one to act out their innermost desires far from the view of others, others who so often impact on how we act. With good and evil opposite and equal forces the field is both a very dangerous place but also a place of great potential [2].

Eisav was a man of the field. But what type of field it would be was unknown. While Eisav choose the wrong field, it did not have to be that way.

While it is hard to know why Eisav chose to reject the covenantal relationship – and surely there was more than one reason – Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch calls out Yitzchak and Rivka. “Educate the child according to his needs” (Mishlei 22:6) Rivka and Yirtzchak failed to heed, or shall we say, foresee this crucial advice of Shlomo Hamelech. Yaakov and Eisav were their twin children and they raised them in similar ways. But they were far, far from identical twins and each required their own unique approach. Rav Hirsch explains that it was this failing that led Eisav to choose the path he did.

The emotional, religious, physical psychological needs and more differ from child to child. It takes great parenting to raise each child according to their particular temperament, focusing exclusively on what is best for the child – even if not best for the parent. May the Jewish people merit such parents.

I thank Sofia Freudenstein whose words inspired this devar Torah.

[1] As is to be expected there are many debates as to which actions may have been wrong – making a careful study that much more important. As a guide book for all times it is quite possible that what might be viewed as a mistake in one generation may be viewed quite differently in another.

[2] This is just the application of Newton’s third law of motion to the spiritual world which parallels that of the physical world.