web analytics
March 5, 2015 / 14 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

An Honorable Failure


“Did you love him when he was religious?” asked Rav Kook. “Of course,” replied the father. “Well then,” Rav Kook replied, “now love him even more.”

Sometimes love can do what rebuke cannot. It may be that the Torah is telling us that Isaac was anything but blind as to his elder son’s true nature. But if you have two children, one well behaved, the other liable to turn out badly, to whom should you devote greater attention? With whom should you spend more time?

It may be that Isaac loved Esau not blindly but with open eyes, knowing that there would be times when his elder son would give him grief, but knowing too that the moral responsibility of parenthood demands that we do not despair of or disown a wayward son.

Did Isaac’s love have an effect on Esau? Yes and no. It is clear that there was a special bond of connection between Esau and Isaac. This was recognized by the Sages: “Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said: No man ever honored his father as I honored my father, but I found that Esau honored his father even more” (Devarim Rabbah 1:15).

Rabbi Shimon derives this from the fact that usually people serve their parents wearing ordinary clothes, while they reserve their best for going out. Esau, however, had kept his best clothes in readiness to serve his father the food he had gone out to hunt. That is why Jacob was able to wear them while Esau was still out hunting (Genesis 27:14).

We find, much later in the Torah, that G-d forbids the Israelites to wage war against Esau’s descendants. He tells Moses:

 

Give the people these orders: “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own” (Deuteronomy 2:4-5).

 

And later still Moses commands the Israelites: “Do not abhor an Edomite [i.e. a descendant of Esau], for he is your brother” (Deuteronomy 23:8).

The Sages saw these provisions as an enduring reward to Esau for the way he honored his father.

So, was Isaac right or wrong to love Esau? Esau reciprocated the love but remained Esau, the hunter, the man of the field, not the man to carry forward the demanding covenant with the invisible G-d and the spiritual sacrifices it called for. Not all children follow the path of their parents. If it was Isaac’s intent that Esau should do so, he failed. But there are some failures that are honorable. Loving your children, whatever they become, is one – for surely that is how G-d loves us.

Adapted from “Covenant & Conversation,” a collection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s parshiyot hashavua essays, published by Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem (www.korenpub.com), in conjunction with the Orthodox Union.

About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “An Honorable Failure”

  1. Jennifer Waybright says:

    Then I wish the writer of this article could please explain Psalm 108 (David’s Song).

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility.
US Secy of State Kerry Says ‘Demanding Iran Capitulate is Not a Plan’
Latest Judaism Stories
Ki Tisa_lecture

Over and over, the text tells us about “keeping” Shabbat, about holiness, and a covenant – but why?

Aaron and  The Golden Calf by James Tissot

Aharon’s guilt with the golden calf is not clear-cut. What if Moshe were in his brother’s place?

Rabbi Sacks

The Sabbath is a full dress rehearsal for an ideal society that has not yet come to pass-but will

When Hashem told Moshe of the option to destroy the people and make him and his descendants into a great nation, Hashem was telling Moshe that it is up to him.

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

An Auto Accident
‘All Agree That They Are Exempt’
(Kesubbos 35a)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Why would the exemption of women from donating the half shekel exempt them from davening Musaf?

This concept should be very relevant to us as we, too, should be happy beyond description.

The Holocaust was the latest attempt of Amalek to destroy the special bond that we enjoy with God.

One can drink up to the Talmud’s criterion to confuse Mordechai and Haman-but not beyond.

“The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Esav” gives great insight to Purim

Purim is the battleground of extremes, Amalek and Yisrael, with Zoroastrian Persia in between.

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

The mishloach manos of times gone by were sometimes simple and sometimes elaborate, but the main focus was on the preparation of the delicious food they contained.

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

The Sabbath is a full dress rehearsal for an ideal society that has not yet come to pass-but will

Rabbi Sacks

Jewish prayer is a convergence of 2 modes of biblical spirituality, exemplified by Moses and Aaron

With the synagogue, “Judaism created one of the greatest revolutions in the history of religion”

By wisdom, we come to understand G-d via creation; By Torah we understand G-d through His revelation

Torah opposes slavery; G-d desires the free worship of free human beings, yet slavery’s permitted-?!

Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.

The 5th cup is supported by a 5th expression of Deliverance: “And I will bring you to the land…”

The first recorded instance of civil disobedience is the story of Shifra and Puah, defying Pharaoh

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/an-honorable-failure/2011/11/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: