Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. -Sir John Lubbock
Modern parents have mostly outsourced the education of their children. We send them to schools and charge the teachers with the often thankless task of educating the next generation. Within the school system there have been endless debates as to how in fact we should educate our children, what the curriculum should be, what’s a reasonable class size, what are the best methods of instruction, what qualifications the teachers need and much more. None of this, however, absolves the parents of the responsibility of educating and raising their children as best they can.
Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 25:27 sees fault in the righteous Isaac and Rebecca in their raising of Esau, who the Rabbis named “Esau the Evil.” He explains that they gave their twin boys, Jacob and Esau, the exact same education, without consideration of their very distinct personalities. Jacob was a natural bookworm, comfortable with studying texts, remaining absconded within his tent; a student ideally suited for explorations of the religious and the spiritual. Esau however, was an outdoorsman. He loved nature and the wild. He was physically strong, liked the rugged life, the life of a hunter and perhaps that of a warrior. The study of texts and the spiritual was completely lost on him.
Rabbi Hirsch explains that the boys’ saintly parents forgot or did not heed the dictum, immortalized around 3,000 years ago by King Solomon in Proverbs 22:6 “Instruct the child according to his own way.” Every child (even a twin) has his own unique personality. He will have his own interests, things that excite him and things that bore him. By providing Esau with the same educational curriculum as they did to Jacob, they almost guaranteed that he would come to abandon their beliefs and way of life. Rabbi Hirsch claims that if they had developed a unique curriculum that spoke to Esau’s love of nature, that took into account his strength, skills and courage, it may have directed him to become a mighty man of God, as opposed to merely a mighty hunter.
May we pay attention to and respond accordingly to our children’s’ differing educational needs.