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D’var Torah: Parashat Toldot

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In this week’s D’var Torah for Toldot, the Chief Rabbi asks what can be learnt from Eisav’s favourite outfit.

What is your most favourite outfit of clothing? For what special occasion did you wear it?

In Parashat Toldot we are told, “Vatikach Rivka Et Bigdei Eisav Bnah Hagadol Hachamudot – Rivka took her oldest son, Eisav’s, favourite outfit, and she placed it on Yaakov.” Of course she was preparing Yaakov – we are all familiar with the story – to deceive his father Yitzchak, so that he would receive the blessing of the ‘Bachor’ – the firstborn.

But if Eisav had a favourite outfit, why wasn’t it in his own home? What was it doing in the home of his parents, Yitzchak and Rivka?

Our Sages explain that Eisav kept his favourite outfit in his parents’ home so that when he appeared before his father, such was the deep respect he had for him, he would always change into his smartest clothes.

But wasn’t Yitzchak blind? If he couldn’t see what Eisav looked like, surely his clothes made no difference whatsoever?

The answer is that Eisav’s respect for his father was totally sincere. Of course it would be nice for his father to see that he respected him but that was not why he was doing it.

I believe there are two important messages that emerge from this, for us and for all time.

The first is that when it comes to ‘Kibbud Av Va’Eim’ – the respect we must have for our parents, like that of Eisav, should be natural. Not just to tick the box to let our parents know that we are respecting them but rather, whether we are in their presence, outside of their presence, or well beyond their lifetime, we should continue to respect their wishes and to live according to the values that they taught to us.

There is a second message. Over Shabbat Parashat Toldot Eisav gets a lot of bad press. Within shuls right around the world we highlight what a ‘tzadik’ – a righteous person, Yaakov was and what a rotten apple Eisav was.

But right in the midst of this story we highlight the fact that Eisav did excel in one area: the respect that he had for his father. This reminds us of that great teaching in Ethics of the Fathers. “Ein Lecha Adam She’ein Lo Sha’ah – There is not a single person on Earth who doesn’t have his or her moment.”

We learn something from everyone. As some people say, ‘Even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day’.

Shabbat Shalom