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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Beresheet: Parashat Toledot: Who You Are

Contributed by: R. Eric Mizrahi

ויאהב יצחק את עשו כי ציד בפיו ורבקה אוהבת את יעקב

When we look at this verse, many inquire how could Yisshaq be pulled into Esavs traps, and believe that he was the better son, or how he could be swayed simply because Esav because he brought him fresh game.
And these are all great questions, questions that our mefarshim do address, however, we should also focus on a careful grammatical reading of the verse, and see what may be learned.
Regarding Esav, it says that ויאהב יצחק the word ויאהב is future tense, but with the Vav Hahipuch, switches the verb to the past tense. We would translate this verse as, Yissaq loved Esav in the past tense.
Regarding Yaacov, the verse states ורבקה אוהבת את יעקב the word אוהבת is present tense. We would translate the phrase as, and Rivka loves Yaacov present tense.
Why would the verse switch tenses in midstream? What can we learn from this?
Esav represents the gentile attitude towards what defines a person, while Yaacov represents the Jewish attitude towards what defines a person. In the gentile world, people are defined by what they do. Meaning, they use their profession to define who they are. However, in the Jewish world, people are defined by what they are.
Esav defined himself and expected others to define him by what he did. He wanted to be seen as an athlete, a warrior, a famous hunter. The basis for admiration for him would be based on what he accomplished in the past. Should he stop being a hunter, so would people stop admiring him. Hence the verse uses past tense when it comes to Esav.
But by Yaacov, Rivka loves him in the present tense, unabated and uninterrupted. Her love is not dependent on his latest achievement. This is a very true distinction in our day as well. While a non-Jewish child may say, I want to be a lawyer when I grow up, a Jewish child is more prone to say, I want to be a good Jew or I want to be a baal hesed when I grow up.
Regardless of what the young Jewish boy grows up to be, his worth and value is not dependent on his profession, but rather who he is at that current point in time. Beezrat Hashem, we need to stress this idea to our children, accept them in any profession they choose to attain, and focus their perception of self-worth on who they are religiously.

 

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