FROM THE RABBI’S DESK TOLDOT: דברי הרב
A number of perplexing issues arise regarding Rebecca’s behaviour as described in this parsha in regards to her relationship with her son, Esau. In the opening aliyah of the Torah reading, Rebecca is seen as specifically loving her other son, Jacob. She neglects Esau. Later, we read she encourages Jacob to disguise himself as Esau in order to deceive Isaac in giving the blessing to the former rather than to the latter. Finally, at the end of the Torah reading, she is called “˜the mother of Jacob and Esau”, concerned that the internecine relations between the brothers can result in their untimely deaths.
Rashi quizzically states that he does not know why the Torah mentions that she is the mother of Jacob and Esau, and fails to understand the lesson to be derived from this unusual phrase. The Siftei Chachamim defends Rashi indicating that Rashi is privy to all kinds of interpretations, but cannot correlate these theses with the quoted text.
It remains for Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch to explain the statement that Rebecca is the mother of Jacob and Esau. Despite the fact that she loves Jacob more than Esau, she cannot shake her feelings of motherhood. She realizes that if Jacob were to take advantage of the blessing of great wealth and power, that Esau would hate him all the more. Therefore, she and Isaac conclude that in sending away Jacob from their home in order to escape Esau, that he be given little more than what he needs in terms of money and food to leave. Despite Isaacâ€™s riches as described in the opening section of the parsha, Jacob is not to benefit from any of it when he leaves his ancestral home to find refuge and a wife in the home of Laban, his uncle.
Rebecca is concerned with Esau’s self-esteem, and feels that if his brother were to flaunt his newly found wealth bequeathed to him by deceiving his father into thinking he was Esau, Esau’s hatred would only grow. Rebecca was hoping that with the passage of time, Esau’s anger against Jacob would subside. Unfortunately, his anger remains despite the seeming reconciliation described between the brothers later in parshat Vayishlach.
It may have been too late for Rebecca to patch up her differences with Esau, but she remained his mother not only biologically but emotionally. That they remain estranged is indeed tragic. It is equally tragic when we know of estranged relations among our acquaintances, friends and even family.