Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
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by Efraim Levine

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HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
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Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


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And the lads grew up and Esav became a man who knows trapping, a man of the field but Yaakov was a wholesome man who sat in tents. (Bereishis 25:27)  

In this week’s parsha we learn about the difference between Yaakov and Esav. The Torah mentions two things about Esav. First, he was “a man who knew trapping” and second “a man of the field.” Rashi explains that the description “a man of trapping” is to be interpreted on an intellectual level. He knew how to trap his father with questions of Torah knowledge, “How does one tithe salt and straw?” In other words Esav was an accomplished Torah scholar. On the other hand the Torah also describes Esav as “a man of the field.” Rashi explains this to mean a man who was idle and caught birds and animals with his bow.

We learn from this that Esav led a double life. He was both a Torah scholar and a professional hunter.

The Torah continues to tell us about Yaakov. “Yaakov was a wholesome man who sat in tents.” Rashi explains that the two tents refer to the academy of Shem and the academy of A’ver. The commentators explain that the fact that the Torah mentions the academies of Torah in plural with the word “tents,” indicates that each tent had different approach to Torah study and life in general. Many of us can relate this to the famous prewar European Yeshivos of Slobodka and Narvadik. The former taught their students to stress the greatness of man, whereas the latter impressed upon the conscience of their students the futility of man.

Similarly with regard to the Yeshivos of Shem and A’ver each had a unique approach to life. Some commentators suggest that the Yeshiva of Shem promoted an idealistic approach to life whereas the Yeshiva of A’ver promoted a practical approach to life. A hint to this idea can be found by noting a Midrash which says that after the akeidah Avraham sent his son Yitzchak to study in the academy of Shem, whereas at the end of this parsha Rashi tells us that Yaakov on his way to the home of Lavan went to study at the academy of A’ver. The difference in selection of Yeshivos indicates a different need due to the unique circumstances of Yitzchak and Yaakov at that time. Yitzchak was offered as a sacrifice to Hashem. He was not permitted to leave Eretz Yisroel. He spent most of his life isolated from society serving Hashem privately. He was therefore sent to study in the Yeshiva of Shem which promoted this approach. He was a product of the Yeshiva of Shem. Yaakov however, when fleeing from Esav went to the Yeshiva of A’ver to prepare how to conduct himself in the coming years of earning a livelihood and raising a large family in the company of the deceitful Lavan. It was only the Yeshiva of A’ver that could prepare him for this experience.

It seems that Yaakov also lead a double life. He was a product of the Yeshiva of Shem and a product of the Yeshiva of A’ver. Is not common for a serious student of Torah to be the product of two Yeshivos. If you are a student of Narvadic you are not a student of Slobodka. Vacillating between Yeshivos is indicative of instability and weakness. Yaakov was an obvious exception. He succeeded to live a double life. He was a product of the Yeshiva of Shem and a product of the Yeshiva of A’ver.

Thus, this one posuk informs us that both Yaakov and Esav led double lives. Esav was “a man of trapping” and also “a man of the field.” Yaakov was product of the Yeshiva of Shem and also a product of the Yeshiva of A’ver. However there is a major difference. With regard to Esav the posuk calls him a “man” twice, “a man of trapping” and “a man of the field.” However, with regard to Yaakov the Torah only calls him a man once. “A man who sits in tents.” This difference conveys that Yaakov did not truly live a double life. He was one person who integrated and synthesized his multiple experiences of life. Esav was the one who led a double live. At times he was “a man of the field” and at other times was “a man who traps with his mouth.” He failed to integrate and synthesize his life experiences. This was his failure. A person can only have one identity. To sometimes be one person and at other times be someone else leaves you without a true identity and ultimately with nothing.


© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5765/2004