Parashas Toldos

This week’s parashah recounts the birth and development of Yaakov and Eisav. The Torah states (Bereishis 25:28): “Yitzchak loved Eisav, for [his] catch was in his mouth, while Rivkah held an abiding love for Yaakov.” The Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 63:10 remarks that whenever Rivkah heard Yaakov’s voice, she would extend added love to him. I present here one of the Maggid’s interpretations of this Midrash, taken from his commentary on Shir HaShirim 2:8. Our verse speaks of Yitzchak’s love for Eisav and Rivkah’s love for Yaakov. Now, love can be classified into two types. One type is the unqualified love that one feels in a relationship with a person of ideal personality and character. The other type is the qualified love that one feels in a relationship with a person who is predominantly good but has significant faults. One notable difference between these two types of love is as follows: Unqualified love is stronger in the loved one’s presence than in his or her absence, whereas qualified love is stronger in the loved one’s absence than in his or her presence. Qualified love involves a balance between positive and negative traits. When the loved one is elsewhere, the negative traits are not seen, so the love comes to the fore. But when the loved one is seen face to face, the negative traits are apparent, and they dampen the feelings of love.
This is precisely the difference between the love Rivkah had for Yaakov and the love Yitzchak had for Eisav. Rivkah’s love for Yaakov was unqualified, since his character was impeccable. Hence, as the Midrash teaches, her love for him grew whenever she heard him. Yitzchak’s love for Eisav, on the other hand, was qualified. Yitzchak was aware of Eisav’s despicable behavior. Yet he loved Eisav because he believed that Eisav had latent positive traits which would lead him to improve his ways when he matured. Eisav deluded his father into having this hope. The Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 63:10 tells us that Eisav would trap his father with his mouth; he would ask him how to take tithes from straw and salt. These disingenuous questions led Yitzchak to believe that Eisav had a latent good side that would sprout forth in the future. Hence, the Torah writes the phrase “Yitzchak loved Eisav” as ויאהב יצחק את עשו, with a future-tense verb transformed into past tense by the Biblical conversive vav. This construction parallels Yitzchak’s love for Eisav. Yitzchak realized that Eisav was at present not worthy of his love, but he transferred to the present the love he thought he would have for Eisav in the future. Hence, in contrast with Rivkah’s love for Yaakov, Yitzchak’s love for Eisav was greater when Eisav was absent. When Eisav was present, his despicable behavior would dampen Yitzchak’s love.
The same pattern appears in Hashem’s relationship with us. When Hashem loves us due to our own merit, He keeps us near. He takes care of us Himself rather than through an agent. But when God loves us only on account of our forefathers – our own deeds being unworthy – then He prefers to keep a distance from us, so that His love will not be dampened by our misdeeds.  Hence He cares for us through an agent. In this vein, it is written (Yirmiyah 31:2, homiletically): “From a distance, Hashem appeared to me, [saying,] ‘I have loved you with the love of yore.’” Hashem appeared to us from a distance, through an agent. Why? Because He loved us merely with the love of yore; that is, His love for us was not due to our own merit, but rather on account of our patriarchs of yore.
Similarly, in Shir HaShirim 2:8, regarding the Exodus from Egypt, it is written: “It is the voice of my Beloved: Behold, He is coming &nash; skipping over the mountains, jumping over the hills.” The Midrash in Shemos Rabbah 15:4 expounds on what this verse is saying. Hashem sent Moshe to the Jewish People to tell them that He was going to take them out of Egypt. The people asked: “Where is He?” Hashem replied: “I am skipping over the mountains. If I were to come to examine your deeds, I would see that you do not merit being redeemed. I am redeeming you only on account of your forefathers.” Because of the Jewish People’s deficiencies, Hashem chose to bring about the redemption from a distance, through an agent.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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