Parshas Toldos

This weeks Parsha is Parshas Toldos. In the beginning of the Parsha we are introduced to the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. The Torah describes how when Esau was born his appearance was red and very hairy. (Genesis 25:25) He was given the name Eisav, which means developed. The simple reason for this name is because he already was developed – he already had the hair of an older person. Afterwards his younger brother was born, holding onto his brothers heel, and he was named Yaakov –related to Eikev which means heel. The Torah then tells us of an episode that occurred when Jacob and Esau turned thirteen. Esau came from the field, very tired. Jacob was cooking lentils. When Esau saw the lentils that Jacob was cooking he asked Jacob ‘“Let me open my mouth and pour down into it from this red stuff, for I am very exhausted.” Therefore his name was called Edom (which means red).’ (Genesis 25:30).” Our Sages teach us that his being tired was related to having just having committed a murder. This episode begs for explanation: Why was this simple conversation when Esau just called the beans red stuff a reason for his name to be called Edom? Why wasn’t his name called Edom when he was first born, when he himself looked red?

The Medrash tells us that the meaning of Esau having a red complexion was that he had a tendency towards committing murder. However, he was not excused for the murder and sin that he did. He could have used this nature of his in good ways. He could have satisfied it by being a hunter, or a butcher. Indeed, we are taught that when King David was born, he too had a red complexion. Samuel the Prophet, when he met King David was indeed alarmed by his complexion and the tendency to murder that this indicated. However, Hashem told him not to worry: King David would only wage wars with the rulings of the Sanhedrin, the great Jewish court.

When Esau was born, the fact that he had a red complexion was certainly a cause to all for concern. However, it was not at all certain that he would be a wicked person. It was up to Esau to decide how to use his tendencies. He could have still turned out to be a tzadik, just like King David. Therefore, he was named Eisav, which comes from the word Oseh – to do, to perfect. His name was a prayer that he would take his potential and use it in a positive way, to perfect himself. However, afterwards, when he came from the field, having committed a murder, and asked for the food to be poured into his mouth like an animal, he showed that his red complexion was being used for the wrong things. His name now went back to the original red appearance that he had, and he was called Edom.

The idea being conveyed to us by the Torah is a most important one. How often do we feel that we can’t do a certain mitzvah because we feel that it is too hard for us, or that we don’t have a natural tendency towards that mitzvah. We learn from Esau how wrong that is. The fact that a mitzvah may be challenging or hard doesn’t absolve us from it. That may be our very challenge in life – to overcome the obstacles and to do it anyway.