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Posted on November 19, 2020 (5781) By Rabbi Usher Smith | Series: | Level:

In Parshas Toldos the posuk (Bereishis 25:27) states, “Vayigdilu hani’arim…”, “and the youth grew up…”. Rashi tells us regarding this, that as long as they were little it was not distinct in their actions as to which direction they would each take, and people did not take note of what their nature was. Once they reached the age of thirteen, this one went to the Beis Medrash while the other one went to the house of avodah zara

The Medrash (Bereishis Rabah 63:10) upon which this Rashi is founded says as follows: Rabbi Levi said, it is allegorical to a Hadas plant and a bristly plant that are growing side by side. As soon as they grow up, the Hadas will let off a fragrant smell while the bush will bring forth its thorns. So too, all of their first thirteen years, both Yaakov and Eisav went together to the Beis Haseifer, and they both came from the Beis Haseifer. After that age had passed, this one went to the Batei Midrashos, while the other went to the houses of Avodah Zara.

The obvious question that may be asked (as does the Mizrachi and Sifsei Chochomim), is that Rashi in the name of the Medrash previously attested to the fact that there were clear signs as to the direction which they would each take, from the earliest possible moment. “Vayisrotzetzu habonim bikirba…” (Bereishis 25:22), “when she passed the entrances of Torah from Sheim v’Eiver, Yaakov ran and pushed to come out. When she would pass by the entrances to Avodah Zara, then Eisav would push to go out”. If that were the case before they were born, then we can only imagine towards what they would each gravitate after their birth. If that is the case, then how can the above Medrash tell us that nothing was indicative until only after they turned thirteen?! Perhaps, this can be explained as following.

The Maharal actually asks, how was it possible that Eisav ran after the houses of Avodah Zarah while still in the womb, since the Yetzer Horah is only given to the person once he is born? He answers, that Eisav was not merely listening to his Yetzer Horah while inside Rivka. Rather, each person has natural techunos, spiritual characteristics of righteousness or wickedness which are inherently part of himself. Eisav was naturally inclined towards wickedness, which was the force that pushed him towards a house of Avodah Zarah.

Rav Wolbe Zt”l (Shiurei Chumash) explains that we find that there is a force of magnetism in the physical world. For example, a magnet always gets pulled in the same direction; it faces towards the North. There is a general rule that everything which we find in regards to the physical world, has a spiritual counterpart. Therefore, we will also see a force of magnetism regarding the ruchnius of a person.

A person may be walking down the street, looking towards the ground. Suddenly, he lifts up his head to look towards one direction, and the first thing that he sees is a matter of pritzus. Although he did not know that there would be something improper there, it did not happen by chance. Rather, it is this force of magnetism created by the Yetzer Horah, that caused him to look up in that direction at that precise moment. Similarly, there is a force of a good magnetism as well. This was what caused Yaakov Avinu to push out towards the Batei Midrash.

Rav Wolbe continues to explain in the name of Rav Yeruchum Levovitz Zt”l, that the definition of a tzaddik is not the one who never sins, while the rasha is the one who is consistently sinning. Rather, the tzaddik is the one who constantly resists and fights his inclination, even if he falls a number of times. The rasha, on the other hand, is the one who never struggles and constantly gives in to his Yetzer.

Thus, we can understand from this, that one may truly have a netiya, a leaning towards evil in certain areas. However, if he fights against this wickedness from within, then he can still achieve spiritual greatness.[1]

There is another important principle which Rav Wolbe teaches us elsewhere (Shiurei Chumash, Shemos 22:1). Someone once asked him, what should one do if he has many children, and one of the bigger ones is always picking on a younger one? Rav Wolbe answered, let him fight back! If we don’t teach him to stick up for himself, then he will always be a “nebach”. When he gets older and goes to Cheder, and there will be children there that bother him – he will always take the blows. He’ll become a broken child!

Rav Wolbe continues, that he once received a letter from someone with this same question. A melamed who this person had asked, had told him, “It’s very valuable for the child to learn to be happy to get yisurim!” Rav Wolbe wrote back, that with this approach he will break the child! One must teach the child not to tolerate anything from others, but rather to defend himself. Otherwise, everyone will pick on him…Although there is an approach in general, to be from the “Aluvin v’einan olvin…” (Shabbos 82b), to joyously accept yisurin and hardships which others bring upon him, it can not be expected from a five-year-old! This is meant for one who is already an Oveid Hashem – a level which he will eventually attain…

Thus, we learn from this principle, that a child is not yet mature enough to know how to control his emotions with his intellect. This is something which only a developed person, as an eved Hashem can do.

With the two yesodos that we brought from Rav Wolbe, we may now understand the original Medrash, which Rashi had brought. When they both went to school, we can assume that Yaakov was not jumping from desk to desk, and Eisav was not sitting quietly while taking in every word of his Rebbi. Most certainly, Eisav was seen as a rambunctious child while his brother, Yaakov was surely more aidel.

However, as every good mechanech knows, there is no such thing as a “bad” child. Rather, some children have tendencies that are much more challenging. Most certainly, they need to be taught how to deal with their inclinations. However, it is only once they reach an age of maturity, in which they will be able to learn to regularly overcome their natural tendencies on their own, and fight against their techunos.

Thus, Rashi in the name of the Medrash tells us that once Yaakov and Eisav reached the age of thirteen, they each went along their own path in life. For, it was at that time in which they both matured. While Eisav at that time, gave in to his inclinations for wickedness, Yaakov resisted his Yetzer Horah and followed a good path.

  1. Similarly, the Mashgiach, Rav Matisyahu Solomon Shlit”a had said, that one should not be deterred if an impure thought comes into his mind. For, that is not the defining factor of his tzidkus or rish’us, but rather it is what he does with that thought. Thus, if he fights to quickly dispel of the machshava, or counteracts it with thoughts of Torah, then he has won the fight against the Yetzer Horah.