Toledoth: Tainted vs. Everlasting Love

“And Isaac loved Esau because he ate [of that which Esau] hunted, and Rebecca loves Jacob” (Genesis 25:28).

Why does the Torah describe Isaac’s love of Esau in the past tense (“Isaac loved Esau”), while describing Rebecca’s love for Jacob in the present tense (“Rebecca loves Jacob”)? The Torah reveals that Isaac’s love for Esau found its root in a physical benefit Isaac had from Esau (“because he ate of that which Esau hunted”). Rebecca’s love of Jacob was rooted in Jacob’s spiritual greatness. “Jacob was a simple (i.e. humble) man, dwelling in tents (i.e. of study and meditation)” (ibid, v. 27). Physical things are fleeting, therefore so is the affection that is rooted in the physical. Spiritual matters are everlasting, therefore so is the love that derives from them. Isaac’s love for Esau, based on the physical benefit Esau brought him, was as fleeting as that benefit, so it is described the past tense, as something that passes. But Rebecca’s love for Jacob, based on his everlasting spiritual qualities, was an everlasting love, and is therefore written in the present tense, as it is a love that does not pass away with time. Like Rebecca, let us remove our focus from fleeting, physical pleasures that leave us empty soon after the momentary enjoyment they bring, and rather focus on the substance of the spirit, that which is everlasting and true, and derive our benefit therefrom, so that the joy and love we experience in our lives can be as everlasting and constant as their spiritual source.

Based on Shla”h, Parshas Toledoth

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