Shabbat Parashat Toldot| 5767
Yaakov and Eisav were born and raised together but grew up differently. “And the youths grew up, and Eisav was a man who knows hunting, a man of the field, and Yaakov was a wholesome man, one who sits in tents” (Bereishit 25:27). What were the paths of these prototypes to reach their stations in life?
We know that Eisav and Yaakov were of different nature even before birth, and Rivka was told that they would grow into different nations with vastly different characteristics. Yet, people did not notice the differences when they were small (see Rashi on p’sukim 25:22 and 25:27). Rav Hirsch sees this as an educational shortcoming on the part of their parents, who educated them identically, despite their disparate strengths and tendencies. He says that they thus failed in educating Eisav properly.
What about Yaakov’s education? Chazal say that the tents he dwelled in were academies of Torah learning, yet not that of Yitzchak but of Shem and Eiver, respectively (Bereishit Rabba 63). Why was there a need for multiple tents of study? One midrash says that Yaakov was such a matmid (diligent at study), that one teacher was not enough. When Shem finished instruction for the day, Yaakov continued his day of study with Eiver. However, one can give additional explanations.
Going back to Eisav, notice that he was one who knew how to hunt and was in the field. This implies that he used that which he already knew naturally. Neither Yitzchak nor Shem and Eiver taught him his livelihood. Had he been taught how to best become a man of the field along with the ethics of the field he might have fared better.
When Yaakov “graduated” from Yitzchak’s academy, he realized that he was not prepared to face a life filled with a wide variety of challenges. He did not ignore the world and continue in the tent he knew. He was a tam, wholesome and complete on one hand (see Unkelos, 25:27), yet naïve on the other (see Rashi, ibid.). Yaakov decided to broaden his horizons, but not by trying to see how the Eisavs of the world live. To the contrary, he learned from other tent dwellers, each with his own approach and insights, how a Yaakov should deal with the challenges that an Eisav will throw his way. (Even within the world of scholarship, the gemara (Avoda Zara 19a) says that analytical tools are best learned from multiple teachers.)
The lessons of the parasha for the educator are daunting. One must discover the talents and tendencies of each student. One should not suffice to let the student do what he already knows how to do. Rather, he should lead the student in the direction he should be going and/or teach him the ethics of his field of endeavor. Even when one is on the right path, he may not be able to reach his full potential when limited to a monolithic approach. Rather, he should learn broadly, albeit within an appropriate atmosphere. While these lessons themselves cannot be applied monolithically, it is food for thought for parents and educators alike.
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