"And these are the offspring of Yitzchak son of Avraham - Avraham gave
birth to Yitzchak" (25:19)
Parshas Toldos records the births of Yaakov and Eisav. The introductory
verse states "these are the generations of Yitzchak, the son of Avraham -
Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak". Citing the Midrash, Rashi explains the
necessity of the apparent redundancy regarding Yitzchak's relationship to
Avraham; it was in response to cynics of the generation who cast aspersions
as to the legitimacy of Yitzchak's lineage. They claimed that since Sarah
had not conceived for many years while married to Avraham, yet became
pregnant immediately after spending the night in the palace of Avimelech,
king of Plishtim, Yitzchak was clearly sired by Avimelech and not Avraham.
Consequently, the Torah reiterates that Yitzchak was the son of Avraham.
Sarah giving birth to Yitzchak is covered extensively in last week's parsha,
Parshas Vayeira. Why is it necessary to refute the cynics in this week's
parsha which begins with Yitzchak at the age of sixty?
The verse immediately following the reiteration of Avraham siring Yitzchak
relates that Yitzchak fathered Yaakov and Eisav. Eisav's evil ways
reinforced the claims of the cynics, for it was difficult to understand how
the biologically and genetically endowed bearer of Avraham's legacy could be
so malevolent. Therefore, the cynics argued that Yitzchak must have been the
child of Avimelech, for if such was the case, it was Avimelech's genetic
makeup to which the nature and disposition of Eisav could be attributed.
Furthermore, Eisav was the progenitor of Amaleik who is described as having
no "yiras Elokim" - "fear of Hashem".
This is the same attribute that
Avraham Avinu ascribes to the people of Plishtim, further lending credence
to the theory of Avimelech being Eisav's grandfather.
Therefore, specifically at this juncture the Torah deems it necessary to
quell the malicious charges which threatened to undermine the heritage and
sanctity of the Jewish people.
"Rivka then took Eisav's clean garments which were with her in the
As part of the subterfuge which Rivka created to ensure that Yaakov would
receive the blessings from Yitzchak, she dressed him in Eisav's "bigdei
chamudos". Rashi explains that these were a set of clean clothes that Eisav
kept at his mother's home to change into when serving his father, Yitzchak.
In a second interpretation Rashi cites the Midrash which states that these
were regal garments that Eisav had pilfered from Nimrod.
The Midrash relates the following concerning Eisav's great filial devotion:
Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel commented "All my life I served my father, but I
did not attain even one percent of the service performed by Eisav for his
father. I was not particular about the cleanliness of my clothes when
servicing my father. Only when I went out into the public eye did I take
note of the condition of the clothes I was wearing. In contrast, Eisav was
particular to serve his father in clean garments, but would not care if he
walked into the market wearing rags."
When Yaakov entered Yitzchak's room impersonating Eisav in order to receive
the blessings, his father's suspicions were aroused. The verse states that
it was Yaakov's voice that betrayed him. The Ramban notes that since
Yaakov and Eisav were twins the sound of their voices were identical.
Rashi therefore explains that it was the manner in which Yaakov spoke that
betrayed him. Whereas Yaakov spoke to his father respectfully, requesting
him to please sit up to eat, Eisav spoke brashly and without supplications.
Rashi paints a different portrait of Eisav, the paradigm of parental honor.
How do we reconcile Rashi's comments with the aforementioned Midrash? The
Torah attests to Eisav marrying women who were a source of great emotional
distress to his parents. The smoke produced by the idolatrous service of
Eisav's wives contributed to Yitzchak's loss of vision. How could Eisav
have exhibited such a lack of sensitivity to his parents' feelings? Honoring
parents is one of the few precepts for which the Torah delineates a reward,
The Talmud teaches that this reward refers to a greater sense of existence
in the World to Come. Why is this the appropriate reward for honoring
The Mishna teaches that our parents deserve to be honored because they bring
us into this world, i.e. give us existence. We can react to receiving
existence from our parents in two very different ways, either by displaying
indebtedness or by showing gratitude. A person who feels a tremendous sense
of indebtedness will serve his parents as a means by which to pay off this
debt. A person who feels gratitude for his existence will give his parents
their existence by showing his subservience and devotion to them. A person
who repays a debt begrudges the fact that he has incurred this debt. As he
pays it off, he feels better for repayment offers him liberation. He
therefore performs his service with a sense of expansiveness. Giving our
parents their existence requires that we minimize ourselves before them,
acknowledging their superiority over us. It is clearly easier to perform a
service with heightened enthusiasm when we perceive that we are expanding
through our actions. If we are required to minimize ourselves the task
becomes more arduous. It is this enthusiasm that oursages laud when
describing Eisav's actions, not the motivation behind them. Eisav sought his
independence andserved his father as a form of payment. He did not submit
himself to his father's will when it infringed upon his wayof life. The
ideal method of honoring parents would employ the enthusiasm of Eisav
coupled with the motivation to submit ourselves to our parents thereby
giving them a greater existence. If we are successful in giving our parents
agreater existence, Hashem rewards us with the ultimate existence, a greater
reality in the World to Come.