Nature Or Nurture

Isaac and Rebecca's approaches to their sons teach us valuable lessons about education and relating to people with different natural inclinations.

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A Final Word

Later in our Parashah, when Isaac asks Esau to hunt for him so that he [Isaac] may bless him [Esau], he says: "Take your quiver and your bow and go out into the field and hunt game for me. Prepare for me a tasty dish like I love and bring it to me so that I may eat and so that my soul may bless you before I die." [Genesis 27:3-4]

Three verses later, when Rebekah recounts this conversation to Jacob, she has Isaac saying, "that I may bless you in the presence of God before I die." Again, when Jacob, dressed to appear before Isaac like Esau, speaks of God, Isaac responds, "The voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau." (Note that commentaries understand Isaac's comment, "the voice," as referring to Jacob's use of the name of God.)

This student of Torah observes that Isaac and Rebekah speak of God when talking to Jacob but not when talking to Esau, and wonders: Did Isaac and Rebekah try too hard to speak to Jacob and Esau only on the plane that they thought each would be comfortable?

Perceiving Esau as "earthy," did they neglect to speak with him about God; perceiving Jacob as "spiritual" did they neglect to teach him about the beauty of physicality, also created by God?

In their attempt to "engage" each son on his own terms, did they fail to challenge him?

Had Isaac and Rebekah challenged each of their sons to grow beyond their natural inclinations who can say how different the history of the ages may have been recorded.

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Rabbi Howard Alpert is the Executive Director of the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.