Parents must take an interest in each child, learning their unique traits in order to maximize their potential and help them grow up to become God-fearing adults.
This week’s Torah portion is Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9). In it we read about the birth of Jacob and Esau, twins who gave their mother, Rebecca, a very painful pregnancy. When she inquired of the local prophet why she was having such a difficult time, the prophet told her all about the two children she was about to have: Jacob the righteous son and Esau the evil one.
The question is asked: Why did God send twins? Why not have two separate pregnancies, one child born after the other? All the procedures, lessons and symbolism would still seem to fit into the story line if Jacob and Esau came some years apart. Rebecca could have gone to the prophet to inquire on each of her pregnancies, Jacob could still have been the righteous one, and Esau could have remained the evil one. The birthright, the blessings, the escape, it all would have worked out with two pregnancies.
The answer, it is explained, is to offer us some insights on raising children in general, and twins in particular. Twins present unique educational challenges for parents. They are born together, raised together, but remain individual and distinct, with different personalities. There is often a tendency, however, to raise twins in an identical manner. They will often share the same room, wear the same clothes, attend the same school, enjoy the same activities, food, friends – you name it. Their lives are often “twinned.” When children are born in different years, however, the child-raising norms may differ from one to the next. This assists parents in raising their children in a more individual manner.
Scripture teaches us that every child must be raised according to his/her interests, abilities and natural tendencies, as it says, “Train each child in accordance with his own way” (Proverbs 22:6). Every child is unique and every child must be raised in accordance. No one is the same.
Perhaps God introduced Jacob and Esau to us as twins in order to make us more sensitive to the educational needs of our children. It is easy to raise children, especially twins, in an identical fashion. However, raising all children in the same manner deprives them of who they are and who they were meant to be.
Unfortunately, Jacob and Rebecca missed this idea in raising their twins. They disregarded Esau’s tendencies towards hunting, violence and the outdoors. They thought that they could force Esau into study, observance and righteousness, just like Jacob. They learned the hard way, and unfortunately they ‘lost’ their son to a way of life that went against the Torah and Jewish values. Perhaps if they had channeled Esau’s energy in a more positive manner, he would have emerged as a God-fearing Jew and used his talents in more dignified and worthy ways.
Whether we have twins or not, we must be careful to “train each child in accordance with his own ways.” Parents can’t expect their children to always follow in their footsteps regarding career, hobbies, interests and the like. We must make sure to get to know our children! We must take an interest in them, observe them and discover what “works” for them, each one individually. In this way, our children will maximize their own potential and turn out just as God had intended!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the following links.