Perashat Toledot 5778
Perashat Toledot 5778Friday, November 17, 2017
One of the great mysteries of Sefer Beresheet is how Esav, a son who was raised by Saddikim, Yisshak and Ribka, grows up to become so wicked? Contrast this to his twin brother, Yaakob, who epitomizes the holiness of Am Yisrael.
Esav had great potential. He performed the missvah of honoring his father so meticulously that it is almost unsurpassable. The Midrash in Beresheet Rabbah tells us that Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel stated, "I served my father all my life, and I didn't accomplish even 1/100th of what Esav did to honor his father."
Another example of one of Esav's strengths is when upon realizing he would not receive berakhot from Yisshak, he "cried out a great and bitter cry." Such a cry could only come from someone who has complete faith in the berakha of the Saddik.
On the other hand, Esav is notorious for being the ultimate Rasha, evil one, in the commentaries. The Torah presents Esav as a wild and impulsive character who had no qualms about abandoning eternal life, his birthright, and selling it for the fleeting pleasure of a pottage of lentils. The Talmud in Baba Batra 16b states that Esav committed five detestable sins in one day. Additionally, he went against his parents and married two idolatrous Hittite women and even tried to kill his own brother because of a grudge. How is it possible that someone with Esav's DNA - i.e. someone with the clear biological potential to become a Saddik - could go completely wrong?
There is a pasuk in our perasha that might help us understand this. The pasuk in Beresheet 25:34 says, "Esav belittled his bekhora", his birthright to be a Kohen and perform sacrificial service.
Esav's grave mistake was that he didn't believe in himself. He might have believed in the berakhot of his father the Saddik, but not in his own prayers. He didn't have confidence that he possessed the ability to rise above his own nature and achieve greatness. He recognized, even while in his mother's womb, that he was inclined towards sin. Instead of trying to overcome this tendency, he succumbed to it.
Although Hashem imbued him with the potential for greatness, Esav lacked the desire. Had he shown an interest Hashem would have created the opening for him to achieve his rightful place in Am Yisrael.
This is a great lesson for all of us. When we are tested, we are presented with stumbling blocks that appear overwhelming. Hashem doesn't expect us to fight these obstacles all on our own, but He does want us to have the will to better ourselves. The Mishna in Pirke Abot 2:4 says, "Make His [God's] will like your will." It doesn't mean conform your actions to His will; it means make your determination like His. One must believe that goodness can be attained, and once one desires and prays for it, Hashem will surely lead the way.
Rabbi Mimoun Miller
May 28 2020
Sivan 5 5780