Vayeitzei ha'rishon admoni kulo
k'aderes sei'ar vayikr'u sh'mo Eisav (25:25)
Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky was once traveling with his son and granddaughter on an
airplane. Seated next to him was the non-religious head of the Histadrut, the
General Federation of Labor in Israel. During the course of the flight, he was
astonished to notice Rav Yaakov’s son and granddaughter constantly coming to
check on him to see if there was anything they could do to make his flight more
The man couldn’t help but sadly contrast the behavior of Rav Yaakov’s family
with that of his own, who barely made time to visit or talk to him, and he asked
Rav Yaakov to explain the secret of how he created such close and reverential
family bonds. Rav Yaakov responded that the warm relationships he enjoyed with
his children and grandchildren had nothing to do with any superior methodology,
but with the underlying philosophical differences between him and his seatmate.
Rav Yaakov explained that Orthodox Jews believe in a concept of yeridas ha'doros
– declining spiritual generations – as each successive generation is further
removed from the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. As such, we emphasize the
paramount important of mesorah, and young children inherently respect and care
for their parents and elders. Our children and grandchildren view us as a
critical link in their connection to the Torah, and as such, they naturally want
to interact with us and help care for us.
Turning to his neighbor, Rav Yaakov concluded, “You, on the other hand, believe
in and promulgate the theory of evolution, which teaches that each successive
generation is more sophisticated and evolved than the previous one. Instead of
looking at you as being closer to Moshe Rabbeinu, your family views you as being
closer to a monkey. Is it any wonder that they don’t make much time for you!?”
The dichotomy that Rav Yaakov so keenly expressed can help us appreciate the
difference between Yaakov and Eisav. Although Yaakov and Eisav were twins, they
had little in common. Their goals and values couldn’t have been further apart.
The Alter of Kelm explains that the tremendous gap between them lies in one
fundamental difference. In contrast to other animals which are born already
capable of sustaining themselves, human babies are born needing a great deal of
care. The Alter explains that Hashem made us this way is so that we will be
prepared to learn from our parents and elders.
The name Eisav is related to the word "asu'y" – made. Rashi writes (25:25) that
Eisav was born with hair, much like an older child. Eisav was born viewing
himself as a completed package, and he had no interest in learning from others.
This stands in stark contrast to Yaakov. The name Yaakov is associated with the
word "eikev" – heel - and just as the heel is located at the bottom of the human
body, so too did Yaakov view himself as being at the bottom of his life’s work.
Additionally, Yaakov’s name is expressed in the future tense, as he understood
that he wasn’t a finished product. He constantly had to work to maximize his
In Yaakov's dream in next week’s parsha, he sees a ladder which reaches all the
way to Heaven (28:12). This is the potential of a person who constantly seeks to
improve himself. At the age of 63, Yaakov opted to spend an additional 14 years
studying in yeshiva before seeking a wife (Rashi 28:9). Later, as he traveled
with his family to Egypt to be reunited with Yosef at the advanced age of 130,
his first priority was to send Yehuda ahead to establish a yeshiva so that he
wouldn’t miss out on even one day of his Torah studies (Rashi 46:28).
The verse in Hoshea states (11:1) "Ki na'ar Yisroel va'ohaveihu" – Hashem
declares His love for the Jewish people because no matter how old and wise we
grow, we still view ourselves as a na'ar – an adolescent who has much to learn.
The greatest level that a yeshiva student strives to attain is that of talmid
chacham – Torah scholar - but even a sage who reaches such a level is referred
to as a talmid, a student with much still to learn.
We live in a society which views its elders with anything but reverence. We must
combat this pervasive attitude by learning from our forefather Yaakov, who
teaches us the importance of respecting and always seeking to learn from our
parents, elders, and teachers.
V'atah b'ni sh'ma b'koli (27:8)
It is interesting to note a substantial difference between the approach taken by
Rivkah in her interactions with her husband Yitzchok and the style chosen by
Sorah in her dealings with Avrohom. When Sorah noticed the evil ways of Yishmael,
she directly confronted Avrohom and ordered Yishmael’s immediate expulsion
(21:9-10). In our parsha, although Rivkah was clearly aware of the difference
between her twin sons, she never directly told Yitzchok the truth about their
wicked son Eisav. Instead, she resorted to a backhanded scheme to ensure that
the righteous Yaakov would receive the blessings. Why didn’t she confront
Yitzchok in the same manner that her mother-in-law had previously employed?
The Netziv explains that when Rivkah first encountered Yitzchok, she was
returning with Eliezer and his servants and observed Yitzchok in the field
reciting the afternoon prayers. When he prayed, he was so removed from this
world that he appeared totally angelic and spiritual. Hence, she slipped off her
donkey and covered herself out of awe and reverence for this holy man
This initial encounter made such a deep impression on Rivkah that she found
herself unable to directly confront him for the rest of their married life due
to the deeply-ingrained respect she had for her husband. As a result, when she
realized that Yitzchok erred in his judgment about which son to bless, she had
no choice but to indirectly circumvent his intentions in order to bring about
the proper outcome in which Yaakov received the blessings that he deserved.
Others answer by noting that there is one critical difference between the two
cases. Sorah did not give birth to Yishmael as Rivkah did to Eisav. Yishmael was
the son of Avrohom and Hagar, Sorah’s maidservant. No matter how bad a child may
behave, a mother is still a mother. The natural love that Rivkah felt toward her
biological son Eisav prevented her from confronting Yitzchok and insisting that
he be sent away in the manner that Sorah was able to insist that Yishmael, who
was not her son, be banished.
Vayisa Eisav kolo va'yeivk (27:38)
Parshas Toldos revolves around Yitzchok's twin sons, Yaakov and Eisav. After
Yitzchok grew old and blind, he decided to bless his older son Eisav, but his
wife Rivkah overheard his plan and arranged to substitute the more righteous
Yaakov to receive his father's blessings. When Eisav realized what had
transpired and that the blessings intended for him had been cunningly taken by
Yaakov, he began to cry. The Zohar HaKadosh (Vol. 2 12b) teaches that the tears
shed by Eisav as a result of his intense pain over not receiving his father's
blessings enabled his descendants to send Yaakov's offspring into galus (exile).
The Zohar adds that when the tears shed by the Jewish people wash away Eisav's
tears, they will be redeemed from exile.
Rav Shmelke of Nikolsburg questions this statement. Throughout the generations,
suffering and afflicted Jews have cried millions of tears. Why haven't they been
sufficient to eliminate the few tears shed by Eisav so many thousands of years
ago? He answers that the Gemora (Chullin 98b) teaches that - it is only possible
to nullify an item by combining it with a more numerous item of a different
type, but an object cannot be nullified by adding to it more of the same.
Therefore, the tears cried by the Jewish people lack the ability to cancel out
Eisav's tears. However, this reasoning is difficult to understand. How is it
possible to say that the tears shed by Eisav and those shed by the Jewish people
are considered the same type of tears? Do we really cry for the same reason as
Rav Shmelke explains that Eisav cried over the loss of the blessings that
Yitzchok gave to Yaakov, which were clearly materialistic in nature (27:28-29).
From the fact that our copious tears throughout the generations have been unable
to wipe away his, it must be that our tears are also for mundane and earthly
issues, and for this reason they are considered comparable to Eisav's tears and
unable to nullify them. If we would only begin to cry not over our unfulfilled
physical needs, but our spiritual yearnings, then our tears would no longer be
classified as the same type of tears that Eisav shed and would be able to
nullify them, which would bring us the long-awaited fulfillment of the Zohar's
promise for our redemption from galus with the coming of Moshiach, may it be
speedily in our days.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) What is the significance of the fact that this week’s parsha is named Toldos,
and why is it specifically read at this time of the year? (Emunas Itecha)
2) Rashi writes (25:26) that Yaakov came out of his mother’s womb holding the
heel of his twin brother Eisav. In what way did this conduct demonstrate
Yaakov’s righteousness even at such a young age? (Paneiach Raza)
3) Why did Yaakov bring his father wine to drink (27:25) when his mother only
commanded him (27:17) to give him bread and meat, and from where did he get the
wine? (Daas Z’keinim, Chizkuni, Tosefes Bracha, Torah L’Daas Vol. 9)
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