In Perek 25 Pasuk 28 of this week’s Parsha, the Torah says, “Vayeehav Yitzchak Et Esav Ki Tzayid Bifiv ViRivka Ohevet Et Yaakov,” “Yitzchak loved Esav because of the game in his mouth, but Rivka loved Yaakov.” The Shlah notes a very interesting use of tense that is used in describing the love of these two parents. By Yitzchak, the Torah uses the past tense as Yitzchak loved Esav because of what Esav did. Notably, Esav trapped animals and fed the meat to his father. However, Yitzchak’s love was conditional and dependant on the fact the Esav trapped game for him. In addition, past tense signifies that it is a matter that does not endure. Conversely, by Rivka, the present tense is used because Rivka constantly loves Yaakov for who he is. Therefore, Rivka’s love was unconditional and independent of any motive. This explanation is also hinted to by Targum Onkelus who interprets this Pasuk as meaning, Yitzchak loved Esav because he put game in his mouth, but Rivka loves Yaakov.
The Maggid of Dubno explains this Pasuk along the same lines. He says that in the non-Jewish world one is defined by what he does. However, in the Jewish world one is defined by who he is. Rabbi Frand extends this interpretation of the Maggid by commenting that this Pasuk is very relevant to our lives today. Why did Yitzchak love Esav only because of the food that Esav gave him? Did Yitzchak not follow the commandment to love every Jew like one’s self? Moreover, Esav was Yitzchak’s own son, why would he love him conditionally if most parents love their children because they their children?
Rabbi Frand explains that Esav represented non-Jewish values as he was a mighty warrior and hunter who was strong, handsome, and intimidating. Esav wanted people to admire not because he was intrinsically important, but because of these qualities. He wanted people to say to themselves, “Look at that Esav. Look how strong he is. Look how well he hunts.” And indeed people did admire him in this way. However, Yaakov wanted to be admired because of the kind of person he was, an Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim. He wanted people to respect him because of his kindness and hatred for dishonesty. He was defined not by his physical attributes, but by the kind of person he represented. Similarly, today, society defines a person by what he does. For example, if one is a doctor, lawyer, or CEO then he is important. However, a poor person seems unimportant. The most well known question that every kid is asked is, what do you want to be when you grow up? However, with Jews it is hopefully different. If one asks a Jewish child what he wants to be, he will hopefully respond: a Baal Chesed, Baal Tzedaka, a Talmud Chacham, or an Oveid Hashem. Of course a Jew will get a job, but he is not defined by his occupation, but by his actions. It is not the question of what you want to be, but of what you want to do. Hopefully, we will not define ourselves and our children by their occupation, but by their character and integrity, recognizing that we are a Tzelem Elokim, an image of Hashem. Rivka Imeinu knew the proper perspective of Judaism; let us follow in her footsteps.