Toldos - The Purpose of Creation Part VI
Combining Family and Business
By Rabbi Aron Tendler
Avraham was the oldest of three brothers. According to the Medresh he first
attempted to share his newly found awareness and understanding of
monotheism with his immediate family.
At first his father Terach was antagonistic, but in the end "did Teshuva"
and accepted the basic tenets of his son's teachings.
Haran, Avraham's middle brother, was attracted to Avraham's assertions and
insights but would not oppose the religious and societal norms with which
he had been raised. In the end, his indecisiveness cost him his life.
His three children, Sara, Lot, and Milkah survived Haran. Sara fully
embraced the teachings of her uncle Avraham and became his life's partner.
Lot followed Avraham for many years but in the end deviated from Avraham's
beliefs. He realized that he would not be Avraham's designated heir, and
would not accept a lesser position. Milkah married her uncle Nachor,
Avraham's youngest brother. Nachor totally rejected Avraham's beliefs and
devoted his life to undermining Avraham's mission. In the end, he
bequeathed a legacy of hatred and opposition to his son Bisuel, grandson
Lavan, and his great-great grandson Bilam.
What would have been if Avraham had been successful in influencing his two
siblings to accept monotheism and its attendant obligations?
Had Haran and Nachor accepted Avraham's teachings all of history would have
been different. Haran would not have died young. Instead, Sara and Lot
would have had their father's support in making the changes demanded by
Avraham's beliefs in monotheism. Sara would have still married Avraham and
raised Yitzchak. It may also have been that Avraham would have never
married Hagar. Instead, Avraham would have married one of his other grand
nieces rather than take an additional wife from outside the family.
When it came time for Yitzchak to marry, the obvious choice would have
been, as it was, Nachor's daughters and grand daughters. However, the
difference would have been extreme. Nachor, rather than a nemesis and
adversary to Avraham would have been a supportive partner. It does not mean
that he, Bisuel, Lavan, and Bilam would have been Jewish. It does mean that
they would have willfully contributed to the eventual redemption of the world.
As we know, Nachor's and Haran's contributions were mostly against their
wills. Lot becomes the seemingly unwitting progenitor of Dovid Hamelech
while Nachor, through the offices of Bisuel and Lavan, reluctantly releases
Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah into the genetic pool of the Jewish people. Had
they joined Avraham and Sarah early on, destiny would have been amazingly
How do we know that there was even a chance for Avraham to succeed with his
immediate family and specifically his two brothers?
The Medresh regarding Terach describes him as exceptionally capable and
talented. He was seen as the distillation of the capabilities of the nine
generations that preceded him, from the time of Noach and the Mabul. It
stands to reason that he exerted great influence over his sons. As the
respected right-hand of Nimrod or the successful merchant of idols and
artifacts, Terach was a very dominant figure in the lives of his sons. The
Medresh, although very critical of Terach (see Rashi 11:31) suggests that
he did repent at the end of his life. That means that it was possible for
Avraham to have influenced his immediate family. It didn't only have to be
strangers and acquaintances that became the "souls that they had made in
Historically, our greatest enemies have been the children of Eisav and
Yishmael. Both are descendents of Avraham and our "mishpacha." Had
Avraham's family joined him in changing the world there may never have been
a Yishmael. Had Nachor joined Avraham in his quest for G-d and meaning the
likes of Bisuel, Lavan and the evil Bilam would have never attempted to
destroy us in our infancy. Instead, the strength and determination that
powered their evil machinations might have been turned to the benefit of
the Jewish nation and the world.
More so would have been the affect their support would have had on
Eisav. Within the family of Yitzchak and Rivkah Eisav was the odd man
out. His strengths were not those of his twin brother Yakov. He needed a
supportive setting that would have allowed him to explore the limits of his
physicality in a responsible fashion. Had he had the role models of Nachor,
Bisuel and Lavan, he might have turned out much differently. Just as they
would have been Avraham's supporters, subjugating their individual talents
to further Avraham's and G-d's goals, so too Eisav would have embraced his
designation as the strong hands supporting the voice of Yakov.
More so than that would have been the combined qualities of Bilam and
Moshe. Had Bilam been raised in a family devoted to the advancement of
humanity's obligations to their Creator and to His chosen people - the
children of Avraham - Bilam would have devoted himself to the same. It
would have meant that both the Jews and the non-Jews would have been gifted
with a figure of sanctity and prophecy. It would have meant that the
non-Jewish world would have the means for preparing themselves to accept
G-d's word as taught to them through Moshe and the Bnai Yisroel. It would
have meant that Mattan Torah would have ushered in the Messianic era.
However, it didn't happen. Terach influenced his sons away from G-d.
Avraham was unsuccessful in transforming his two brothers. Lot and Milka
took torturously circuitous routes in contributing their potential to the
future redemption of the world. Bisuel died an evil man. Lavan earned the
reputation of our greatest enemy ever. And Billam almost succeeded in
destroying us both spiritually and morally.
Which brings us to Eisav. Eisav was the wild-card in all of this.
Regardless of the failure of Avraham's two siblings, the world still had a
chance. Eisav was born with the potential to physically dominate the world!
Eisav was born into the perfect world of Yitzchak and Rivkah. Eisav was
born as the older twin of Yakov. Why a twin? Because nothing is as powerful
as the bond between twins. They read each other's minds. They talk their
own language. They finish each other's sentences. Yet they are distinct and
individual. They live their own lives making their own mistakes and
deserving credit for their own successes.
Eisav's potential was so great that the Saatan mistook him instead of Yakov
for the source of Isrel's spirituality. (see Sefer Haparshios) Had he been
inspired to extend his abilities in support of blessing ("And the nations
of the world will be blessed through you...") the Lavan's and Billam's of
the world could have never harmed us.
We know that Chesed (kindness) should start at home. Avraham attempted to
do so, but his family was not interested. The question we end with this
Shabbos is, If Yakov as Eisav's twin was in the best position to influence
him, did Yakov ever attempt to do so? If yes, where and when? If not, what
were his consequences?
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.