Deep & Meaningful – Weekly Words of Torah, Vayetze 5774

Insights into Parshat Vayetze of Mr. Yitzchak Ginsberg of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, by Rav Re’uven Ungar of Sha’alvim.

The first pasuk in this week’s Parsha says “Ya’akov departed from Be’er-Sheva and went to Ḥaran” (28:10). Rashi explains Ya’akov left for Ḥaran because the daughters of Cana’an were wicked in the eyes of Yitzḥak, his father. Rashi continues that Ya’akov left Be’er Sheva at the end of last week’s Parsha when he was commanded by Yitzḥak. Then last week’s Parsha ends off with Esau taking Yishmael’s daughter for a wife and this week’s Parsha returns to the original story of Ya’akov’s departure.

The Shemen Hatov asks: Why does the Torah have to interrupt the story of Ya’akov’s leaving and tell us that Esau took Yishmael’s daughter for a wife? Ḥazal tell us that Esau is compared to a pig. When you look at a pig at first glance you see his split hooves and think it is kosher; so too when you look at Esau. At first glance he seems good, but once you move past the superficial, you see his true colors. The Shemen Hatov explains that Esau heard what Yitzḥak commanded Ya’akov and went to fulfill that commandment. When we look at what Esau did at face value, it seems like he fulfilled the commandment of not marrying from the daughters of Cana’an. The reality is the commandment wasn’t exclusively against the daughters of Cana’an, rather it was not to marry a wicked girl. Esau really did not understand the commandment and was just trying to live up to his father’s ideals. He perceived the commandment in a shallow manner, and by taking this new wife showed he completely missed the essence of what Yitzḥak was saying.

Esau’s superficial understanding of Yitzḥak’s commandment is similar to the Greeks’ attitude to the Torah at the time of the Ḥanukah story. The Greeks took the Torah and claimed it was an intellectual pursuit just like chemistry, math, physics, etc. They translated it into many other languages and claimed that the Torah was not special or unique. One of the lessons from Ḥanukah is the uniqueness of the Torah and the pedestal it needs to be kept on.

The similarity between Esau and the Greeks is that they took the Torah on a superficial level. We however, must make sure we take the Torah and really understand it at its deepest depths as much as possible.