The Red One

Vayomer Eisav el Yaakov haliteini na min haadom haadom hazeh (25:30)

Parashas Toldos begins with the birth of Yitzchak’s twin sons, Yaakov and Esav. Shortly thereafter, the Torah records that one day, Esav came in from the field, tired and exhausted. He saw that Yaakov was cooking a lentil stew, and in his fatigued state, he begged Yaakov to feed him “the red food,” identifying it solely by its color and not even bothering to refer to it by its proper name.

Harav Mattisyahu Salomon, shlita, relates that he was once in the house of Harav Elazar Menachem Shach, ztl, and observed Rav Shach, who was well-known for giving candy to children, offering a lollipop to one of his grandchildren, adding, “You want a red one, right?” Rav Mattisyahu interjected, “Isn’t the Rosh Yeshivah encouraging him to be like Esav, who insisted that Yaakov feed him ‘the red food?’”

Rav Shach, who was capable of imparting valuable lessons and perspectives through even mundane conversations and actions, responded that there was a critical difference between the two cases. He explained that for a child, living in a world of superficial dreams and imagination and preferring a shiny red lollipop is ordinary behavior and is to be expected. Children are only capable of appreciating the external appearance of an object, and there is no problem with recognizing this reality and interacting with them on their level.

The problem, Rav Shach continued, begins when an adult refuses to mature and elects to live his entire life in this shallow manner. As a person grows up, it is expected that his mind will mature as well, enabling him to see and appreciate an item’s internal value. When Esav requested that Yaakov provide him with “the red food,” he was demonstrating his singular focus on externality and his inability to concern himself with the actual content of the dish.

Although most of us don’t spend our days pursuing red lollipops or red stew, Rav Shach’s message is still relevant to each of us. As children, we were drawn toward flash and superficiality, as could be expected of us at that time. However, as we age, it is imperative to transition to a more mature outlook and perspective, recognizing that people, possessions and accomplishments should not be judged by their external appearance, but by their deeper — and truer — value.

 Q:What legal right did Rivkah have to give Esav’s precious garments, which he had entrusted to her for safekeeping, to Yaakov (Rashi 27:15), so that Yaakov could trick Yitzchak into thinking that he was really Esav?

 Q: Rashi writes (25:9) that Yishmael repented his sins before the death of his father Avraham. Why did he subsequently allow (28:9) the wicked Esav to marry his daughter?

 A: The Chasam Sofer cites the ruling of the Gemara (Bava Metzia 12b), that as long as a child depends on his father for his material needs, he is considered a minor for the purpose of acquiring possessions. As such, all of Esav’s possessions, including his clothing, belonged to Yitzchak, and Rivkah was permitted to lend them to Yaakov. Rav Eliyahu ibn Chaim suggests that because Rivkah was prophetically told that she would give birth to twins and the older son would serve the younger (25:23), Esav was legally considered Yaakov’s servant and all of his possessions belonged to Yaakov, who was therefore entitled to wear his clothing. The Chavatzeles Hasharon notes that the Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:11) explains that Esav’s precious garments were the ones that were worn when bringing offerings, so when Yaakov bought the birthright from Esav, the clothes became part of the package and now legally belonged to him. Harav Shalom Schwadron, ztl, answers that  the Daas Zekeinim (25:30) writes that Esav took these clothes from Nimrod, whom he was able to kill based on advice that he received from Yaakov. Since the clothes were obtained with Yaakov’s assistance, he was entitled to wear them. The Maadanei Asher cites the ruling of the Taz (Yoreh Deah 120:11), that a guardian may use objects deposited with him for safekeeping by non-Jews if he doesn’t damage the item and the owner won’t find out, as this is not considered stealing.

A: Harav Eliezer Friedman explains that although Yishmael was now righteous, he had originally been wicked. He reasoned that just as he had been able to repent his sins, so too was Esav capable of doing so with the proper motivation. As such, he hoped that by marrying his daughter, Esav would be inspired to repent just as he had been. In fact, Rashi writes (32:23) that because Yaakov placed Dina in a box and withheld her from being a positive influence on Esav, he was punished, which seems to indicate that the right wife could have had the potential to influence him to do teshuvah. Yishmael’s error was that he did not realize that since Esav married his daughter  while still retaining his previous wives, this was tantamount to immersing in a mikveh while holding an impure animal, in which case the purity of the mikveh is useless. Not only did Esav not follow Yishmael’s daughter, but he brought her down by bringing her into his idolatrous home.


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email