Parashat Toldot: Esav the Wicked

[Tal Chermon]

Yitzchak believed in Esav and his ability to manage the material world morally and therefore wanted to give him his blessing. Rivkah, however, knew the stark truth. Esav, in his present state, was not capable of advancing the world, since he himself was incorrigibly depraved. Hopefully - after several thousand years of improvement - when the End of Days arrives, he will eventually be fit for the task. He possessed strength, but it was the strength of wickedness which would be used for the destruction of the world. Yitzchak saw the overall picture of the ideal and absolute truth in which Esav's strength must and will be employed at the End of Days for the world's benefit. Rivkah, however, saw the world in its realistic, present state where Esav was a source of evil. At present he is a murderer, as he himself said, "May the days of the mourning of my father come soon so that then I will be able to kill my brother" (Bereshit 27:41). It is true that he was upset because his blessing was taken from him but there are limits even to an angry response. He even wanted to hasten the death of his father. It was a bit too much for him to do that personally, so he requested help from his dear uncle Yishmael, who would certainly comply (Midrash Ha-Gadol, Bereshit 28:9). These murderous inclinations were not created overnight because of a one-time event but were indications of his deep-rooted corrupt nature (Ha-Rav Charlop in Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'a). Rivkah knew Esav's present state better than Yitzkhak and thus decided that in the meantime Yaakov would have to fulfill both his and Esav's tasks.
Sarah had acted similarly a generation earlier when she decided to banish Yishmael from the home because of the negative influence of his corrupt behavior. Avraham was shocked. This went against his grain, which was the ideal of absolute kindness. But it was essential for practical considerations. Ideally they should have been able to live together, but it was not possible at that time. "The events that occurred to our forefathers are indications of what will befall their descendants!" (This concept first appears in the Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat Lech Lecha, section 9. It is explicitly stated in the Shela Ha-Kadosh, Torah She-Biichtav, end of Parashat Vayishlach).