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    The Torah tells in Parashat
    Toledot that Yishak Abinu
    had special love for Esav
    because “Sayid Be’fiv”
    (25:28). Rashi gives two
    explanations for this phrase: 1) Esav would hunt
    animals and then bring meat to Yishak; 2) Esav
    “hunted” Yishak with his mouth, by pretending to
    be righteous. Specifically, Rashi writes, Esav would
    ask his father how to tithe straw and salt – products
    which do not require tithing – to make it appear as
    though he was pious and meticulous about observing
    It is inconceivable that Yishak Abinu, a brilliant and
    saintly man, one of our three sacred patriarchs, could
    be so easily fooled by Esav. Our Sages depict Esav
    as a violent, depraved criminal, who was guilty of the
    most grievous sins. We cannot possibly imagine that
    Esav could simply deceive Yishak by asking halachic
    questions which made him appear righteous.
    The Arizal (Rav Yishak Luria of Safed, 1534-1572),
    as cited by his famous disciple, Rav Haim Vital
    (1543-1620), explained that Yishak loved Esav
    because he sensed the spark of holiness within him.
    Later in history, descendants of Esav converted to
    Judaism and joined the Jewish People, producing
    some of the greatest spiritual giants in our nation’s
    history. Specifically, Shemaya and Abtalyon – the
    teachers of Hillel and Shammai – descended from
    converts from among Esav’s offspring, as did
    Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Akiba – two of the greatest
    Tanna’im. When Esav spoke to his father, Yishak

    sensed the sanctity of these great souls who were
    already embedded within the soul of Esav. And so he
    felt special love for Esav, recognizing the powerful
    spark of holiness within him.
    We might develop this point further, by noting one
    particular position taken by two of Esav’s righteous
    descendants – Rabbi Akiba and his student, Rabbi
    Meir. The Gemara in Masechet Baba Batra tells
    that the Roman nobleman Turnus Rufus once asked
    Rabbi Akiva why, in Jewish belief, giving charity
    to the poor is an important religious value. After
    all, if G-d decreed that a person should suffer from
    poverty, what right does anybody have to feed the
    pauper against G-d’s decree? Turnus Rufus drew a
    comparison to a person whom the king convicted
    and had sent to the dungeon. Certainly, no citizen
    would dare assist the prisoner, who was in contempt
    of the king. Why, then, would Jews believe in
    supporting and assisting somebody sentenced by
    G-d to poverty?
    Rabbi Akiba replied that if a king became angry at
    his child, and condemned the child to the dungeon,
    he would certainly be pleased by those who bring
    his child food and water. No matter how angry a
    person is at his son, and even when he punishes his
    son severely, he continues loving and caring about
    the son, and wants him to be cared for. All Jews are
    Hashem’s children, Rabbi Akiba explained, and so
    Hashem wants us to care for all our fellow Jews,
    even those whom He punishes with poverty.
    Elsewhere in the Gemara, in Masechet Kiddushin,

    we read that Rabbi Akiba’s student, Rabbi Meir, said
    something similar. He asserted that when Moshe
    said to Beneh Yisrael, “Banim Atem L’Hashem
    Elokechem” – “You are sons of Hashem your G-d,”
    this means that even if we do not behave properly,
    we are nevertheless Hashem’s children. Even when
    we disobey Him and violate the Torah’s laws,
    even so – a child is always a child, and so Hashem
    continues loving us like His beloved children. (Rabbi
    Yehuda, another student of Rabbi Akiba, disagreed,
    and maintained that we lose the status of Hashem’s
    children if we do not conduct ourselves properly.
    It is quite possible, however, that Rabbi Yehuda
    and Rabbi Meir debated this question before they
    became Rabbi Akiba’s students, and once Rabbi
    Yehuda heard Rabbi Akiba’s position, he accepted
    this view. Regardless, the Rashba comments that
    although Halacha generally follows Rabbi Yehuda’s
    positions in his debates against Rabbi Meir, in this
    instance, Rabbi Meir’s view is the accepted opinion.)
    In light of this notion, we might gain deeper insight
    into the Arizal’s understanding of Yishak’s special
    love for Esav.
    As mentioned, Rashi writes that Esav posed to his
    father the question of how to tithe straw and salt. In
    one version of the Midrash’s text, Esav’s question
    is, “Eich Metakenin” – literally, “how does one fix”
    straw and salt. Straw and salt, two especially cheap
    commodities, represent those who have fallen to the
    lowest depths, who have strayed far from religious
    observance. When Esav posed this question, Yishak
    heard the voices of his illustrious descendants –

    Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Meir – insisting that even
    the lowliest individuals can be “fixed,” that they
    are still cherished and beloved children of Hashem,
    for whom He cares deeply and whom He wants to
    return to him. Yishak heard Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi
    Meir proclaiming through Esav’s mouth that a child
    is always a child, that Hashem never gives up on any
    Jew, and so we mustn’t, either. And for this reason,
    Yishak had special love and affection for Esav. He
    was well aware of Esav’s misdeeds – but he knew the
    concept of “Banim Atem L’Hashem Elokechem,” as
    understood by Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Meir, that we
    never give up on any Jew, and that we must love and
    cherish every Jew regardless of his religious standing
    – because Hashem loves and cherishes every Jew
    regardless of his religious standing.
    In the particular case of Esav, Yishak was mistaken.
    He did not know of the prophecy which Ribka was
    told, that Esav was not destined to become part of
    Hashem’s special nation. Ribka knew that Esav was
    not going to be part of the Jewish People, and this
    is why she intervened to ensure that Yaakob would
    receive the blessing that Yishak was going to give to
    Esav. In principle, however, Yishak was absolutely
    correct – a child is always a child. Every Jew is
    Hashem’s precious son or daughter, and this is how
    we must view and treat all Jews, regardless of their
    level of observance.