Yitzchak's Twin Troubles - Parenting Insights

Parshas Toldos

In this week’s Parsha, the Torah tells us how after many years of prayer and tears Rivka Imeinu finally conceived and became pregnant with twins. The pregnancy was difficult, and something in particular alarmed Rivkah. Chazal explain that when Rivkah would pass the Beis Hamedrash of Shem VeEver Yakov was drawn towards it and tried to get out, and when she passed houses of Idol worship, Esav was drawn towards them and tried to get out. Feeling this and fearing what it foretold, Rivkah went to consult with Shem VeEver. However they told her she needn’t worry. She was carrying twins and they were inclined differently from the womb.

The Maharal explains that what drew Yakov towards the Beis Hamedrash and Esav towards the house of Avoda Zarah was not the Yetzer Hatov and the Yetzer Harah. The Gemara says that the Yetzer Harah only enters a person after he is born, while the Yetzer Hatov only enters a person when he becomes Bar Mitzvah. Rather, it was because this was the nature of Yakov and Esav. Yakov’s essence was inclined towards the Beis Hamedrash and Esav’s essence was inclined towards Avodah Zarah. Contrary to popular belief, not all men are created equal. The raw materials of people are different. Different people have different inclinations, different temptations, and different challenges. Yet Chazal tell us that hakol bidei shamayim chutz miyiras shamayim. In the words of the Rambam, “everyone can be a tzaddik like Moshe Rabbeinu.” Apparently, that expression of yiras Shamayim is not the same for everyone. As Ramchal writes in Mesilas Yesharim, there are different expectations for different people. Everyone must do their best. This is something that as parents we must keep in mind. Although it may be possible for a person to change his makeup, we must understand that that is supernatural, lemaalah min hatevah. Just as we don’t expect the more positively inclined child to become the Gadol Hador, we shouldn’t expect the less positively inclined child to be more positively inclined.

But there are other, perhaps even more important, lessons to be learned from here. Although it is questionable whether Rivkah told Yitzchak what she heard about Esav, Yitzchak certainly was not naïve. Yitzchak certainly was aware of Esav’s nature, and yet, he never neglected him. Yitzchak believed in Esav. He believed that Esav could be a part of Klal Yisrael. Yitzchak invested everything in Esav, and it came at the expense of Yakov. Yitzchak intended to give the coveted berachos to Esav. We too, must believe in all of our children, and invest in all of them.

How about Rivka? Rivkah knew the truth about Esav. She knew that Esav did not actually realize his potential. She knew that Esav would not contribute anything to Klal Yisrael. To the extent that she encouraged and assisted Yaakov to deceive Yitzchak into giving him the berachos. How was Rivkah able to this? The Torah tells us that Rivkah gave Yaakov Esav’s own special clothing to wear. How did Rivkah come to have those clothes? Chazal tell us that Esav did not trust his own wives, so he gave them to Rivka for safekeeping. In spite of everything Rivkah knew about Esav’s nature, in spite of everything Rivkah knew about Esav’s actions, his deception, his thievery, his murders, Rivkah still loved Esav. And Rivkah expressed that love to Esav. She expressed that love so genuinely and sincerely, that even when Esav felt that there was no one in the world who cared about him, and there was no one in the world that he could trust, his knew his mother still cared about him. He knew his mother still loved him, and that he could trust his mother!

No matter what our children do, we must make sure that they know that we love them and they can trust us.

Good Shabbos to All,

Mati Friedman

~ Rabbi Friedman, endearingly termed 'Reb Mati' by all his talmidim, is a senior Rebbe & lecturer at Yeshivas Lev Zion, and head of the Lev Zion morning Kollel.


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