“As the sons (Yaakov and Esav) grew up, Esav became a man who knows to hunt, a man of the field….and Yitzchak loved Esav.” -Breisheit / Genesis 25:28
What does the Torah mean when it says, “knows to hunt” instead of merely being a hunter? And why two separate things of being a hunter and also being a man of the field?
Rabbi Avraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (from Spain 1089-1164), the classic commentator and great clarifier of the Torah says that in order to succeed in hunting one needs to know how to manipulate and trick the prey. One cannot just kill an animal, but one needs to know how to trap the animal. So the Ibn Ezra is teaching us that the Torah is not merely giving us a historical accounting of Esav’s proffession – but on a deeper level is telling us what kind of person he was; and Esav knew how to trick, trap and manipulate.
The Medrash asks why does the Torah add “man of the field”? What is the Torah adding for us? The Medrash answers that Esav used to take women from their husbands out to the field, so no one could hear them scream – what a haunting description. Shocking, horrific – even graphic, but the Medrash is adding for us another level of understanding who Esav was: more than mere manipulation and trickery that he was capable of, Esav was cruel and destructive.
If this is the kind of man Esav is: a hunter, manipulator, deceiver, rapist and cruel – how is it that the Torah emphasizes, “& Yitzchak loved Esav”. How could Yitzchak, a prophet, a spiritual and utmost refined holy individual love this type of person – and why is the Torah going out of its way to emphasize this?
Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, the Ishbitzer Rebbe (Poland, 1801-1854) says the following profound reality of the relationship of Yitzchak to Esav. If a person looks closely, the word in the Torah saying how Yitzchak loves Esav is actually in the active form. This means to say that it was not merely that Yitzchak happened to especially love Esav – he actively and consciously loved him, he went out of his way to love him.
As is known, Esav is the father of the western world, the non-Jewish western world to be precise. Esav was not Jewish nor was his progeny Jewish. However, as history developed and evolved, there came to be many great Jewish leaders who trace their lineage to Esav. Ovadia the prophet, Sh’maya & Avtalyon the famous sages in the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva and many others throughout Jewish history. How is it that all of these great leaders, sages and prophets specifically stem from Esav the hunter, rapist and deceiver? Is that our Jewish heritage? What is the meaning behind this?
The Ishbitzer Rebbe says the following deep secret of the Torah to answer.
Yitzchak did not inherently love Esav any more than he did Yaakov – why should he? Should he love Esav’s ways of deceit, manipulation, hunting animals and most horrific his treatment and abuse of women?
Rather, says the Ishbitzer Rebbe, as the Torah is telling us that Yitzchak actively and consciously loved Esav – he made the deep effort to. And from everytime Yitzchak looked upon Esav with favor, love, compassion and care there sparked the souls of future righteous generations within him. From the active loving of Esav, not only despite his evil ways but because of it, there generated within him and his progeny sparks of goodness to later be actualized in Ovadia, Rabbi Akiva and thousands more.
Judaism teaches us to “nullify your will for God’s, so that God will nullify others for yours” (Pirkei Avot 2:4). The Ishbitzer Rebbe says that this is what Yitzchak did for Esav – he nullified his own internal difficulty in loving Esav to love him which later resulted in God channelling the wills of Esav’s progeny towards Torah.
The secret here is that good does not happen by accident and good people do not appear out of the blue. The truth is that one has to create good by relating to everything in a positive, deeper way. This is the deeper meaning of Yitzchak loving Esav – Yitzchak loved that which is not good in order to make it good. Not with immediate results either, for it took many generations until Yitzchak’s vision came to be a reality in the leaders mentioned above.
This is really the essence of Judaism – to have a heart filled with deep love of everyone, and if it’s not there, to make it there.
The secret of this Parsha is that the first ingredient in Judaism, life and community is loving others – and only through that will there be later success, though often not at all immediate.
How in our lives is this practical? To enhance the love that we already have for people we adore and for people that we don’t. Are there people in our lives who we think of as “Esav”, who we think bring us down? Are there things or people who we might treat negatively, even a little bit? Are there people who would benefit from our being more patient, forgiving and compassionate? To all of the “Esav’s” in our lives, let us be like Yitzchak who consciously loves to generate the hidden good within.
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