The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM -

“Isaac loved Esau be­cause the hunt was in his mouth and Re­becca loved Ja­cob” Gen­e­sis 25:28

DOES THE To­rah sug­gest that some­how Isaac and Re­becca had a hand in the ten­sion be­tween their chil­dren? How could Isaac get it so wrong that he favoured the vil­lain of the piece?

While Esau’s hunt­ing prow­ess is given as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for Isaac’s love, no rea­son is given when we are told that Re­becca loved Ja­cob.

The 12th-cen­tury com­men­ta­tor Radak says that, of course, Isaac loved goody-goody Ja­cob. Quite lit­er­ally, that went with­out say­ing. The To­rah’s fo­cus is Isaac’s sur­pris­ing love of Esau and re­luc­tance to write his son off.

While Esau is vil­i­fied by tra­di­tion as a way­ward child, he none­the­less found an av­enue which made his fa­ther proud, hon­our­ing him by bring­ing the de­lights of the hunt.

By con­trast, Re­becca’s love for Ja­cob is un­qual­i­fied. She had ev­ery rea­son to love him, and none not to. This was bol­stered by the prophecy that God had given her dur­ing preg­nancy that the el­der would even­tu­ally serve the younger. Isaac rep­re­sents hope in the lead­er­ship qual­i­ties he per­ceives. Re­becca rep­re­sents faith in the lead­er­ship she an­tic­i­pates.

On close read­ing “Isaac loved Esau” (in the past tense) con­trasts with the He­brew “Re­becca loves Ja­cob” (in the present). Isaac’s imag­i­na­tion that lead­er­ship was syn­ony­mous with force and gloss­ing over Esau’s de­fi­cien­cies elicited love that ex­isted but elapsed. Re­becca’s love, rooted in her faith in Ja­cob’s noble qual­i­ties, is a love which ex­ists and en­dures.

Our To­rah gives us pa­tri­archs and ma­tri­archs who are real peo­ple with real hopes, faults and flaws. If our bib­li­cal fore­bears were only all good or all evil, they would be like Goldilocks’ three bears — fairy-tale char­ac­ters with noth­ing much to teach.

We should look for the pos­i­tive in peo­ple but not blind our­selves to their flaws. Though love can’t nec­es­sar­ily be ex­plained, from Re­becca we learn that when our love is a love of virtue, that love lives on.

We might know that we love our fam­ily so much, it goes with­out say­ing. Radak’s com­men­tary is an ex­pla­na­tion but not an af­fir­ma­tion. If we love them, we should tell them, even so.


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