“And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field: and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents” Genesis 25:27


Even if the view that there are only problem parents is something of a generalisation, parents need to be extremely vigilant not to make the mistake of educating all their children identically. What was a blessing for one child could be the ruination of another.

Jacob and Esau are ample proof of this. Born to the same parents and raised in exactly the same home, the Torah tells us that by the time they had become adults they were travelling on very different paths. Jacob was the studious and contemplative dweller of tents, while Esau was more of the outdoor type, full of energy and getting into all sorts of trouble (Genesis Rabbah 63).

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, in a piece of highly creative exegesis (on Genesis 25:27), places the blame for this turn of events firmly with Isaac and Rebecca. They failed to address the particular needs of a child like Esau. He was schooled in the identical way to Jacob, being forced to sit for hours in a highly academic environment, when, in fact, he hankered to be outside.

Had Isaac and Rebecca sought a way that might have harnessed Esau’s particular talents and proclivities for a life of sanctity, then a magnificent partnership between Jacob and Esau could have been formed. Unfortunately, it was not to be and as soon as Esau could go his own way, he lost no time in doing so.

Even in seeking to transmit eternal values, the famous words of Proverbs(22:6) “to train a young person according to his path” need to be applied. We need different educational tools and methods both at home and in the school if all our children are to be inspired to carry the beacon for the next generation.

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