Parshas Toldos presents us with one of the most difficult to understand and troubling narratives in the Torah. Yitzchak, Kadosh Lashem, was bound on a Mizbeach for a Korban. His Tmimos was so complete that he was not permitted to ever leave Eretz Yisroel. And Rivka Imeinu: Rivka, who grew up in a house of cunning, without any Torah, to nevertheless raise herself to the status of Sarah and be Zoche for Sarah’s nissim to return in her honor. Two perfect people produce Yaakov Avinu. But how is it possible that these same two Tzaddikim produced Yaakov’s twin, Eisav Harasha? Was there something improper in the manner in which Yitzchak and Rivka brought up Eisav? Was Eisav’s Chinuch defective in some way?
A little over 25 years ago, I had the opportunity to present this question to the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Weinberg T”ZL . As with all his teachings, his answer was as profound as it was insightful. He began by explaining that the title bestowed on Eisav, “Harasha” is not some derogatory term – casually thrown around. Rather, the term “Harasha” when used to describe an individual in the Chamishei Chumshei Torah, has a very particular unique meaning. Consider that, Yishmael was never titled “Harasha” even when as Rashi explains he tried to kill Yitzchak, Lavan, who tricks and takes advantage of Yaakov for years is titled “HaArami” but never “Harasha”, Parroh, who enslaved Klal Yisroel, killed our sons and built children into brick walls is never titled “Harasha”. Indeed, aside from Eisav, there is only one other person in the Torah who is given the exclusive title of “Harasha” – his name was Bilham.
Bilham we are told, was the Navi provided to the Umos Haolam so they would not be able to complain that “of course Klal Yisroel accepted the Torah, had we had Nevviem who had prophecies from G-D, we too would have accepted the Torah”. In, fact many Rishonim learn that Bilham’s level of prophecy was on par with Moshe Rabbeinu, that is he spoke to Hashem, Panim el Panim. This gives us an insight into what earns someone the title of “Harasha”. Bilham knew 1st hand, direct from Hashem what was expected of him, yet he chose to reject Hashems will and follow his own desires. Eisav in a similar vain had the perfect Chinuch, from an educational perspective. All any Mechanech or parent can hope to convey to a student or child is that which they themselves understand. Once the conveyance of information is complete, every individual retains their B’chira Chafshi, the ability to reject the Ratzon Hashem and follow their own will.
This was Eisav’s deficiency which earned him the special title of “Harasha”. He learned and understood from Yitzchak and Rivka precisely what was expected of him, the Ratzon Hashem. With full knowledge and understanding he chose not to listen. When the Torah refers to a “Rasha”, it is this particular combination of attributes that it refers to – recognition of Hashem, understanding ones obligations and rejection for ones own purposes.
While this helps answer our initial question, it nevertheless is troubling in its own right. Does this mean that as parents we can do everything right yet fail? In fact we do see that wonderful homes can produce troubled children and at the same time pillars of our community can rise from very humble origins. Perhaps we can learn one more lesson from Eisav and Bilham. The Medrash Rabba at the beginning of Sefer Shemos explains the inner failings of each. The Medrash explains that Eisav was in fact spoiled. No matter what he did it was good. There were therefore no boundaries, discipline or consequences for wrong behavior. With excess love and no corresponding limits, Eisav did not grow. Bilham’s failing on the other hand was that of Gayva and entitlement. He could not be satisfied. There was always an insatiable desire for more.
With this Medrash we glean more of a guide as to how to insure that our own children use their Bichira in a positive way. While we may shower our children with unconditional love, they need, even crave appropriate limits and boundaries. Similarly, we must instill the concept of being Mesameach B’Chelko. No one can make appropriate choices when their hearts and eyes always look for more instead of appreciating what they have. It is undeniable that true Simchas Hachayim is the natural extension of being satisfied with what one has. Indeed, our obligation to be Mechanech our children cannot end with the transmission of knowledge, it must also emphasize proper Middos, boundaries and perspective. With this insight may we be Zocheh to see our children fulfill the Ratzon Hashem and bring us closer to the Geula Shleima.