Shabbat Toldot 5775 —Shabbat Torah Study– Parenting and Candor

Being a parent can be challenging at times and the Torah does not spare us from that reality.

We read that Eisav’s marriage to Hittite woman was a source of bitterness to Rivka and Yitzchak (Gen. 26:35). We read that Rivka tells Yitzchak that she will feel her life to be worthless if Jacob also marries a Hittite. (Gen. 27:46).

It seemed curious to me that Rivka told Yitzchak about her fears that the kids will marry out, but nobody seems to be telling the kids until it is too late. We know that Avraham sent Eliezer to Avraham’s family for a wife for Yitzchak for a variety of reasons. Avraham did not want Yitzchak marrying among the Canaanites. Apparently Avraham did not share his rationale with Yitzchak and Rivka was too humble to realize (or she also had not been told) that she had been selected not only above and beyond any Canaanite woman, but also for her extreme attribute of chesed (kindness) and hachnasat orchim (hospitality) as a future Matriarch of our People. Yitzchak who had been controlled as a youth (follow me my son and God will supply the sacrifice) may have liked Eisav’s outgoing nature and the way Eisav went out to get what he wanted. Perhaps Rivka did not feel it was her place in that society. Note that it is Yitzchak, after Rivka complains to him, who sends Yaakov to visit Uncle Lavan and to marry a woman (or two) from Paddan-Aram (Gen. 28:1-2). Or did Rivka say that to Yitzchak so that Yitzchak would send Yaakov away for that reason and not just to save his life from Eisav who had expressed the desire to kill his brother for the deception? She also did not tell Yitzchak of Eisav’s plan.

In any event, the Torah view seems to be that parents should be up front with their children, sharing their concerns and explaining their values, rationale and beliefs. There is a time and place for the “because I said so” conversations, but when all is said and done, children need to be raised and given a guide to follow. Perhaps Eisav would not have married out if Yitzchak and Rivka had sent their Eliezer to find mates for Eisav and Yaakov or explicitly prohibited such marriages. After all, Eisav actually did try to rectify that when he learned it was a problem for his parents. When Eisav realized that his marriages outside the clan were displeasing to his parents he took additional wives from the House of Ishmael (Uncle Ishmael, son of Avraham) (Gen. 28:8).

One thing is certain as our Sages point out. No matter how disappointed either parent was in either of the children. No matter the favoritism of either parent for either child. There was never a question in that household of parental love. The proof text is the comment of the Torah at the end of this Parasha as Yaakov is sent away; Rivka is referred to as the mother of Yaakov and Eisav. (Gen. 28:5)—as if we didn’t know she was also Eisav’s mother. The Rabbis say that Rivka loved Eisav very much too. She knew that she might never see Yaakov again, though she was protecting the future of our People by doing so. She also knew that she was protecting Eisav for, if he did kill Yaakov, Eisav would be lost forever too. Each child was precious to her.

Our children will ultimately do what they do and become what they will become. All we can do is provide love, support and guidance. Yaakov and Eisav were twins. They grew up in the same environment. Yet each was vastly different. Perhaps the Torah is the first book of Psychology.

This Shabbat we learn from our teacher Ruth Bergman. 9:45 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Shabbat Shalom,

Paul

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