And Yitzchok loved Eisav because he trapped him with his mouth, but Rivka loves Yakov. (Breishis 25:28)
with his mouth: As the Targum renders: with Yitzchok’s mouth. The Midrashic interpretation is: with Eisav’s mouth, for he would entrap him and deceive him with his words. – Rashi
How did Eisav trap his father Yitzchok with his mouth? One approach, “his” implies Yitzchok’s mouth. Eisav brought him delicious meat from the animals he trapped. In a second way the antecedent to the pronoun “his” is in reference to Eisav’s mouth. He tricked, trapped and deceived his father into thinking he was sincerely interested in learning, like his brother Yaakov by asking his father intriguing questions.
The Midrash famously spells out Eisav’s style of inquiry, “how do I tithe salt or straw?” He happens to have picked two items that do not require tithing. It may seem to demonstrate an extra zeal to go beyond the letter of the law.
The Shem M’Shmuel has a completely different take on what we learn about Eisav from the Sage’s description of Eisav’s style of questioning. He wonders why Eisav asks about such meaningless things. He does not seek out council on how to write a Mezuza or Shecht an animal. These would be practical Mitzvah questions. Rather, what does Eisav choose to focus on? Matters of lesser importance!
Even when trying to induce his father into thinking he is hyper concerned about Torah and Mitzvos, he betrays his character in these words. He is preoccupied with the superficial and the secondary. The stuff of primary value is lost on him like, “The primary wisdom is fear of HASHEM!”
It would be too easy to bash Eisav at this point. He’s an easy target for us but his problem is symptomatic and emblematic of a more common and ubiquitous dilemma.
When my wife and I were engaged we went to visit on Shabbos, a great person, the Tzadik of Monsey, Rabbi Mordechai Schwab ztl. to receive his blessing. Approaching his house we noticed him exiting and making his way to Yeshiva. We crossed the street and headed him off at the pass.
When we greeted him and told him our special news, he lit up with enormous and genuine joy, and as he exulted, and repeated a phrase, a peculiar statement. I later learned from close family this was his signature Brocho, “The Simcha should be with Simcha! Ah! Ah! Ah! The Simcha should be with Simcha!” He repeated and walked on excitedly.
We stood in stunned silence having experienced the personality of a real Tzadik. Afterwards, though, we were left with the riddle of that Blessing, “The Simcha should be with Simcha!” What did that mean? As we walked and talked it became clear to the point that that phrase became our banner, our theme for the entire wedding process and beyond.
We realized that there is the noun, “the Simcha”, which includes a whole host of other nouns, such as the menu, the venue, the flowers, the gowns, the booze, the band etc. They can easily be mistaken for overwhelm and eclipse the essential “Simcha”.
That’s what can happen when matters of secondary importance – the “TOFEL” become the primary focus- the “IKAR”. Eisav’s syndrome manifests itself in an ultra-concern for the red-red color of the soup. He lives a life distracted by the packaging, the tinsel of this world. Like a child reveling over the wrapping paper and ignoring the present it delivers, Eisav believes in this world and this world alone. He rejects the most important thing, the ultimate payload of existence, an eternal relationship with HASHEM in the “World to Come”.
Yaakov appreciates that the more elaborate and grand the packaging, the greater the nature of the gift within. Maybe Steven Covey said it best when he said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!”