Toldot – Yitzchak and his sons

R’ Jonathan Sacks argued that Yitzchak was not blind to Esav’s personality.The classic explanation has been that he loved Esav because he simply did not understand who Esav was.The Maggid of Dubnow wrote that because Rivka grew up with Laban, she was not deceived, whereas Yitzchak who grew up knowing only total honesty could be easily deceived.


R’ Sacks took a lead from R’ Avraham Yitzchak Kook who was asked what a father should do in the case of a son who had drifted away from Judaism. Rav Kook asked if the father had loved his son when he was religious. The father answered “of course”. Rav Kook then said the father should “love him even more”.


R’ Sacks asked “if you have two children, one well behaved and the other liable to turn out badly, with whom should you spend more time and to whom devote more attention?” He answered that “the moral responsibility of parenthood demands that we do not despair of or disown a wayward son”. He argued that there was a special bond between Yitzchak and Esav, and quoted from R’ Shimon ben Gamliel who said “no man ever honoured his father as I honoured my father but I found that Esav honoured his father even more”.


R’ SR Hirsch wrote about Yitzchak’s motive in telling his son Esav to first prepare him a tasty dish before he would bless him. He argued that Yitzchak wanted to bless Esav in the spirit of his future calling. He wanted his son to use his talent as a source of blessing and be used for exalted purposes, because until then, Esav had enjoyed hunting for its own sake. When giving the blessing to the son he took to be Esav, Yitzchak guided him from hunting “to the field that G-d has blessed”, to agriculture, and the preservation of the prosperity of Jewish national life. This time, Esav went to hunt game in order to bring it home.

Esav remained the hunter, the man of the field, not the man to carry forward the demanding covenant with the invisible G-d and the spiritual sacrifices it called for. R’ Jonathan Sacks wrote that  not all children follow the path of their parents. We should love them whatever they become “as that is the way G-d loves us”.

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