We usually tend to relate to Eisav as the wicked son (Eisav HaRasha), but I wish to reconsider the matter and discuss another topic – “poor Eisav”.
“And Rebecca loves Jacob”. Say no more. Try to imagine the traumatic experience of growing up when your mother loves your brother and does not love you. Consider how many scars and emotional wounds it leaves.
Eisav grew up in the consciousness that he is “never enough”. Everything he does will never be good enough. Yaakov excels in his studies while Eisav is facing difficulties and challenges. No wonder he develops patterns of wild-behavior – this is an unconscious expression of his emotional pain and an attempt to draw attention.
Eisav does everything to gain at least his fathers’ love and blessings, but Yaakov takes also that away from him. Perhaps the reason why Yitzchak is trying to bless Eisav is that he too has experienced a similar trauma – when your father tries to slaughter you, even if it is under G-d’s commandment, it leaves you with emotional scars. No wonder that at the end of the story of the Akeda, Abraham returns to his lads without Yitzhak who probably refused at that traumatic moment, to walk back with his father.
It was very painful for me to read the ending of Parashat Toldot, in that light. Eisav sees that his parents are sending Yaakov away to Haran to find a wife since they did not want him to marry any local girl that comes from a family of idol worshipers. They did not even expect that from Eisav and made no effort because they seemed to have given up. Therefore, to receive their love and affirmation, Eisav decides to marry the daughter of Ishmael, in addition to his two idol-worshipping wives.
These humane insights on Eisav do not contradict the divine purpose and meaning behind the events. Yet, it is impossible to ignore the fact that there are people here in the story, and our Sages also insisted on this aspect of the story, when they iterated that our nation suffered from the descendants of Eisav throughout history as a punishment for the pain that was caused to Eisav by Yaakov: “Jacob made Esau groan one groan, as it is written, ‘When Esau heard the words of his father, he groaned a groan…’ And when was he paid back? In Shushan the fortress as it says (Esther 4), ‘And he groaned a great and bitter groan…'”(Bereshit Rabbah 67:4)
I believe that there is a profound lesson we should learn from the tragic story of Eisav. There is no such thing as a “bad boy/girl”. There is a child who adopts bad behavioral patterns as a response to emotional wounds and pains that result from parents’ lack of love, from the feeling that I am never good enough, and from the thought that I am unworthy of love and belonging.
When your children misbehave, never name them “bad boy.” Our children must be warned and even punished when they behave inappropriately, but it is important to distinguish between them and their behavior. Even when they do a terrible act, they are still entitled to the title of “good boy/girl”.
Do not forget to give your children a hug of love whenever possible, even when you are extremely busy, even when you are angry or upset. The feeling of “being loved” is a primal emotional need for every child and its absence causes many problems down the road.
We all have pain and injuries that we carry within us, we are all the children of life, but at the end of the day … we are all “good children” even when we make mistakes…