Toledot: The Less-Loved Child

Isaac favoured Esau …
but Rebekka favoured Jacob. (Bereishit 25:28).

I see the light in your eyes
that never shines for me.
When he enters
your gaze softens.
He tells you of his day:
your face is aglow
as you listen intently.
Your heads are close together,
your voices murmur gently.
I would like to partake
of the affinity you share.
I wish, one time, your eyes
would shine for me.

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch* points out the inevitable pernicious effect on the twins caused by each parent favoring one child. It can be explained that Esau was beloved of Isaac because the latter could perhaps vicariously enjoy Esau’s energetic, active personality so contrasted to his own introverted, passive nature. Rebekka (who had been told by God that Jacob was destined for spiritual greatness) favoured her younger, meditative son. However, R’ Hirsh castigates both parents for letting their sympathies show.
In her book, Wrestling with Angels, Naomi Rosenblatt says that no matter how attentive parents are, we never get all the approval we crave. Esau’s anguished cry, “Have you but one blessing, my father?” resounds in the heart of every child who has ever felt displaced in his parent’s heart by a brother or sister.

*R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808 – 1888) was a German Rabbi best known for being one of the founders of modern Orthodox Judaism. Between 1867-78 he wrote an innovative and influential commentary on the Pentateuch.


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