Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Weekly Parshah question- Parshas Toldos- Honouring your parents

QUESTION: Which positive character trait did Esav exemplify and give two statements from the parsha to identify this.

A word of caution- I amreferring to a positive middah- NOT a physical attribute

ANSWER:  The meforshim bring that Esav was a model for the trait of kivud av v’eim.  We see that he honoured his parents in many ways.  the first time we see it is in the verse:

28. And Isaac loved Esau because [his] game was in his mouth, but Rebecca loved Jacob.   כח. וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת עֵשָׂו כִּי צַיִד בְּפִיו וְרִבְקָה אֹהֶבֶת אֶת יַעֲקֹב:

Rashi quotes Midrash Tanchuma here that Esav would deceive Yitzchak with his moiuth- however, other meforshim, including ramban state that Esav went out of his way in order to find the game that his father loved in order to serve him.  Esav could have let any of the servants of Yitzchak find the game for his father, but out of his desire to serve him, he made sure to get it himself.

Then, when Esav is deprived of his blessing- what is his reaction?

38. And Esau said to his father, “Have you [but] one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father.” And Esau raised his voice and wept.   לח. וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו אֶל אָבִיו הַבְרָכָה אַחַת הִוא לְךָ אָבִי בָּרֲכֵנִי גַם אָנִי אָבִי וַיִּשָּׂא עֵשָׂו קֹלוֹ וַיֵּבְךְּ:

is reacvtion os not one of anger- but one of desiring to be blessed by his father, to eb drawn closer to him in blessing.

Then, fired with revenge, what does he do?

41. And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing that his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “Let the days of mourning for my father draw near, I will then kill my brother Jacob. “   מא. וַיִּשְׂטֹם עֵשָׂו אֶת יַעֲקֹב עַל הַבְּרָכָה אֲשֶׁר בֵּרֲכוֹ אָבִיו וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו בְּלִבּוֹ יִקְרְבוּ יְמֵי אֵבֶל אָבִי וְאַהַרְגָה אֶת יַעֲקֹב אָחִי:

He swears revenge, but only at atime when he will not upset his father.  Not exactly a great action to want to kill your brother- but even here,burning with anger, his consideration for his father comes first.

When he sees that his Canaanite wives are displeasing to his parents, he attempts to correct the issue

8. And Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan were displeasing to his father Isaac.   ח. וַיַּרְא עֵשָׂו כִּי רָעוֹת בְּנוֹת כְּנָעַן בְּעֵינֵי יִצְחָק אָבִיו:
9. So Esau went to Ishmael, and he took Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the sister of Nebaioth, in addition to his other wives as a wife.   ט. וַיֵּלֶךְ עֵשָׂו אֶל יִשְׁמָעֵאל וַיִּקַּח אֶת מָחֲלַת בַּת יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אֲחוֹת נְבָיוֹת עַל נָשָׁיו לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה:

However, as Rashi says in his commentary, he does not go far enough and he quotes Midrash rabbah that this was wickedness as he did not divorce his idol worshipping canaanite wives.

The parsha ends up painting a complex picture of esav.  he is a deeply flawed man, but also one with one major virtue.  It is a virtue that the Torah emphasises.  when the meforshim comment that the ten commandments can be divided itno two sets of 5, the first 5 emphasising the relationship between man and G-d and the second the relationship between man and man, the commandment for “kivud av v’eim” is on the side between man and G-d.  this is to emphasise its importance, that our parents share in our creation with G-d.  Their are stories in the Talmud of the extremes people went toin order to fulfill this commandment, but how often do we neglect it?  an off hand remark putting them down, neglecting to phone or keep in contact.  Perhaps just forgetting occasions important to them.  We can all do better at this mitzvah- myself included!

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November 16, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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