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I am a mechanech and a parent and Parshas Toldos scares me.

In the bottom of my tallis bag I keep a copy of a page given to me over twenty years ago by a chaver.  It is an excerpt from R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch’s peirush on the parsha.  I take it out and read it whenever I feel I need a kick in the pants.


Concerning the phrase “ויגדלו הנערים ויהי עשו איש ידע ציד איש שדה and the boys grew up and Eisav was an expert hunter and outdoorsman” (Breishis 25:27).  Rav Hirsch explains that until they grew up, the differences in the natures and personalities of Yaakov and Eisav were ignored. They were treated and educated the same way; in the same classroom, with the same curriculum, ignoring the mandate ofחנוֹך לנער על פי דרכוֹ” to educate each child in accordance with his own nature” (Mishlei 22:6).  It was only when they were older that people “noticed” the fundamental differences between them.

Rav Hirsch goes on to say that educating and raising a Yaakov and an Eisav with the same expectations was a recipe for disaster.  The Beis Medrash was the proper place for a Yaakov, but it was a prison for an Eisav.  No matter how spiritually nourishing it was for Yaakov to hear shiurim from Yitzchak, Shem and Eiver, it was poison for an Eisav who was counting the grains left in the hourglass until dismissal – an Eisav, who upon “graduating” unfulfilled, rejected both the education and the ideals it was meant to instill.

Rav Hirsch places the responsibility for creating Eisav squarely on Yitzchak and Rivka’s shoulders.  Had Yitzchak and Rivka studied Eisav’s nature when he was young and worked on figuring out how his strength, energy, and courage could be channeled to Avodas Hashem, they would have raised and educated him differently.  Eisav could have been a spiritual equal to Yaakov, a “גבוֹר לפני הּ- a mighty servant of Hashem” instead of a “גבוֹר ציד – a mighty hunter.” (Imagine what our history could have been like had we been founded by two superpowers like Yaakov without an adversary like Eisav!)

Yaakov understood what his parents did not.  When he gave his final brachos to his sons, he did not give a one-size-fits-all bracha.  Yaakov understood that each of his twelve sons were unique, with different strengths, abilities, inclinations and potential.  Yaakov’s vision for Klal Yisrael was the unification of different parts to create a stronger whole. This was reflected in his brachos – one was to be a ruler, one a merchant, and one a soldier.  All were paths to fulfilling his individual potential while becoming an integral part of Klal Yisrael.

As parents and educators we are expected to follow Yaakov’s model.

  • Not every child will be able to learn a Tosafos, but every child can be an eved Hashem.
  • Not every child will be a lamdan, but every child can be a yoreh Shomayim.
  • Not every child will have the most refined middos, but every child is an essential part of Klal Yisrael.
  • Not every child can live up to our hopes or expectations, but every child is loved by Hashem.


How often have we been blind to the nature and abilities of our children and students?  How often have we failed to properly address their needs – whether they are academic, social, emotional or spiritual?  How often have we dropped the ball and not fulfilled the mandate of  חנוֹך לנער על פי דרכוֹ  to raise and educate each child in accordance with his own nature?

As parents and educators, how many Eisavs are we creating?


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Rabbi Dov Nimchinsky is the Assistant Principal for grades K-8 at Hillel Academy in Pittsburgh, PA.