"When the boys grew up, it came to pass that Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents" Genesis 25:27

By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, November 19, 2009

Who would relish the challenge of nurturing and parenting two such contrasting children? The Torah, however, spares Isaac and Rebecca nothing in exposing their deficiencies as parents in the education of Jacob and Esau.

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch notes it was only when the lads had grown to maturity that their contrasting natures became apparent. Is it really plausible to believe that the tell-tale signs of their diverse personalities were not apparent from their earliest childhood? And if so, did not their parents deploy diverse educational strategies to meet the needs of each child? Tragically, the great law of education of King Solomon, “Educate each child in accordance with its own way” (Proverbs 22:6), seems to have been ignored. As Rav Hirsch puts it, “The great Jewish task in life is basically simple, one and the same for all, but its realisation is as complicated and varied as human natures and tendencies are varied.”

The rapid passage of time does not often allow such parental mistakes to be easily corrected. The commentator Malbim notes that the disagreement between Isaac and Rebecca as to which son should receive the parental blessing was none other than the expression of divergent views as to whether Esau’s lust for the material in life could be harnessed in partnership with the spiritual aspirations of Jacob. In seeking to deprive Esau of the blessing, Rebecca was firmly of the conviction that this would be a futile effort.

Could it be that the bitter experience of his childhood influenced Jacob in the raising of his own children to ensure that their diversity of personalities and talents would be given expression through the distinct and divergent roles of the future tribes of Israel. On his deathbed he blessed all of them but most notably “everyone according to his blessing” (Genesis 49:28).

Last updated: 1:47pm, November 19 2009