Parental Love

Rabbi Reuven Mann

This week’s Parsha, Toldot, takes up the issues of: child-rearing, and the relationship between children and parents. After a stormy pregnancy, Rivka gave birth to twins, who could not have been more unidentical. Eissav, was “a man who knows hunting, a man of the field.” Ya’akov, was the exact opposite, “a wholesome man, dwelling in tents.” The tents that he dwelled in, were those of Shem and Ever, the great teachers of the generation. Clearly, the Chumash is not interested in telling us, what type of dwelling Yaakov occupied.

The attitude of the parents, is somewhat surprising. We are told, that Rivka loved Yaakov, and that Yitzchak loved Eissav; because the “game was in his mouth”–i.e. Eissav provided his father with delicious meals, from the animals he trapped.

What is missing from this description is, Rivka’s attitude toward Eissav, and Yitzchak’s feeling about Yaakov. I believe, it is safe to say, that Yitzchak loved Yaakov; because he was a perfected human being, who was steeped in learning. But Eissav, was not confined to the House of Study. He was involved in conquest and material pursuits, and his true character was open to question.

But Yitzchak believed, that he used his physical talents, for the sake of doing good and serving Hashem. Eissav, did all that he could, to convey the impression to his father, that he was deeply concerned about his religious responsibilities. He managed to convince his father, but not his mother.

The simple reading of the story, conveys the impression that Rivka withheld her love from Eissav. But one may ask; shouldn’t parents display love even to a child whose activities do not meet with their approval?

I don’t think that Rivka treated Eissav with disdain. I am confident, that she showed the appropriate affection for him. I don’t think she behaved in one manner toward Yaakov, and in a completely different way toward Eissav. She did not make the mistake of blatantly playing favorites with her twins.

She realized, that these were no ordinary children; but individuals who were destined, to play a major role on the world scene. When the Torah says, “that she loved” Yaakov, it is not speaking on the level of ordinary emotions. Rather, it means “love” in a more philosophical manner, which signifies approval. Thus, it means, that Rivka was absolutely convinced about the righteousness of her younger son, and therefore loved him.

However, Eissav was a different matter. Yitzchak was more vulnerable to the wiles of the “hunter”; for he was the object of Eissav’s overtures. He was less inclined to be suspicious, and therefore, took things at face value.

But Rivka, was more detached; and was familiar with a type of person, who worked hard to project an image, that did not correspond to reality. So she, did not endorse Eissav’s lifestyle, nor grant him her seal of approval. But, what did she view her main purpose in parenting to be?

Rivka, had an element of Divine revelation at her disposal. She had experienced an extremely turbulent pregnancy, which prompted her, “to inquire of Hashem.” And Hashem said, “Two nations are in your womb, two regimes from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.”

Rivka thus knew, that she would be the progenitor of two distinct nations, that would dominate the course of history. One, was to be the nation of Israel; whose mission would be to teach mankind about the true G-d, and the proper way for man to serve Him. The other, would be opposed to the teachings of Israel, and would seek to glorify man and his accomplishments. A state of enmity between the two, would persist throughout history, until resolution would come with the advent of Moshiach.

When the twins developed, each with his own distinct nature, Rivka knew what Yaakov’s role would be; and she was determined to protect him from Eissav. That is why, she carefully watched all developments, and “heard” when Yitzchak instructed Eissav, “to hunt and bring him a tasty meal so that he could proceed to bless him”. Rivka realized, that she could not allow this to happen; and she instituted the plan, that thwarted her husband’s intention.

Subsequently, it was Rivka, who with her Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) divined, that Eissav was planning to kill Yaakov. She decided, it was necessary to send him off to the family of her brother Lavan, where he could be safe from Eissav; and also begin the process of having children, and establishing the “Tribes of Hashem”.

Therefore, the verse tells us, “that Rivka loved Yaakov”. And whatever her feelings for Eissav, they were not the same, as those for Yaakov. Yaakov was unique, in terms of his personal character traits and superlative wisdom. But there was another dimension. He was the one, who would effectuate the transformation of the Abrahamic movement; from a small group of followers, to a national entity, that would endure throughout all of history. This nation, would be known as B’nei Yisrael–the sons of Yisrael–aka Yaakov.

Rivka’s love for Yaakov, was therefore unique. It was, first and foremost, because of his intrinsic characteristics. But it contained another dimension. Yaakov brought the nation of Israel into being, by siring the twelve tribes. So Rivka’s “additional” love for him, reflected her love for Klal Yisrael. May we emulate her example.

Shabbat Shalom.