Surprising Commentary From the Torah Temimah on Yaakov’s Relationship With Eisav

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In Parshas Vayishlach, Yaakov gears up for a showdown with his brother Eisav. The verse says that Yaakov and his eleven children prepared for the encounter. Rashi quotes the famous Midrash that asks “where was Dina?” Seeing as Yaakov officially had twelve children at this point, the text requires explanation.

The answer given by the Midrash is that Yaakov hid Dina away from sight. He did not want Eisav to see Dina because he did not want Eisav to take Dina as a wife. The Midrash continues and says that Yaakov was punished for doing this. He should have given Eisav the opportunity to join his family by marrying Dina. Instead she ended up falling to Shechem.

The Torah Temimah is really bothered by this. He asks: Where do we find anything like this? One should be obligated to marry off a daughter to an evil person just so that an evil person might repent? Plus, who knows? Maybe the evil person will influence the righteous daughter to break bad?

The Torah Temimah answers  (translation my own, parentheticals are my additions):

 It’s possible to say that Yaakov had no doubt whether Eisav would have repented, it was specifically because of this that Yaakov did not want to marry Dina to Eisav in order that Eisav should not repent. That is to say that Yaakov’s hate for Eisav (was so great) that he did not want Eisav to repent.

I think this is a little bit mind-blowing.

Some interpreters try to idolize and idealize our Bible Heroes. For example, the Daf recently learned the famous Talmudic reinterpretation of Reuven’s sin in this week’s parsha as a minor infraction and not adultery. This is a very common form of rabbinic interpretation. It’s almost jarring to see an interpretation that so humanizes a Patriarch. I also thought it was interested to see Yaakov hating Eisav instead of the usual Eisav hating Yaakov. For some reason, it resonated with me. How about you?

Read the Torah Temimah here: PDF

  • MarkSoFla

    Another explanation could be that Eisav had good yichus (the best) and therefore Yaakov should have at least given him a chance with Dina.

    Could also say that Yaakov had enough wisdom to realize that a woman cannot change a man permanently (though they always seem to attempt it).

    • There are a ton of answers to this question. But NONE like this…

  • G*3

    > The verse says that Yaakov and his eleven children prepared for the encounter. Rashi
    quotes the famous Midrash that asks “where was Dina?”

    Dina’s a girl. Girls don’t count. A little more generously, women didn’t fight.

    It’s certainly an unusual interpretation. But without the midrashim, Eisav isn’t such a bad guy, and Yaakov is no saint. I think that the midrashim got the archytypes wrong. Yaakov is a trickster, not a tzaddik, and Eisav is a hunter, not a rasha. Eisav never does anything bad to Yaakov until after the brachos are stolen from him, and even then, he eventually relents and
    kisses his brother (which the midrashim have to make evil by saying that he was trying to bite Yaakov, but that’s not what the pasuk says). Yaakov, on the other hand, extorts the bechora from Eisav, then lies to Ytizchak and steals the brachos fom Eisav.

  • Daniel Rubin

    I’d definitely never heard this one before. Naturally, the story of Yonah immediately leaps to mind. The Torah definitely doesn’t like it when we don’t give sinners a chance to do teshuva…

    Somewhat off-topic, it’s pretty amazing, when you think about it, how good we are at maintaining our cognitive dissonance over the really troubling issues when we know that that’s just how the Torah works. Here we are expressing amazement that Yaakov could be depicted as hating Eisav, while the idea that Dinah’s rape was Yaakov’s punishment goes unremarked upon. To a modern-day set of eyes, this is a surpassingly offensive notion, but we somehow can make our peace with it (back then all women just wanted to get married one way or another, the Torah understands women in ways we don’t, etc., etc.).

    • Your second point is true but a bit unfair. That would be off-topic in this post. But believe me, I think about it every time…

  • fish yoech

    You’re always quoting the Torah Temimah, so let me tell you for once and for all. My father is a big senior Rov, and I just asked him recently what he says about the Torah Temimah, And he said “I hold that he wasn’t all there”.

    • Lol

    • yidl613

      The Torah Temimah is a bit “mechudashdik”, but that’s quite a jump!

  • Rav Volbe (and others) often write how the Avos were aware of direct causality of their actions to the future of klal yisroel (i.e. Avraham had to go to Egypt and leave with wealth so that BN”Y could as well etc). Perhaps here he’s saying Yaakov had to (chose to) hate Eisav, for a similar reasoning. Thought process isn’t complete, but hard to accept a middah like hatred completely overtaking Yaakov.

  • BostonDave

    Very interesting interpretation, and I think it rings true in light of Shimon and Levi’s challenge to their father after Yaakov chastises them for taking out Shechem et al- “Will YOU make a harlot of our sister???” And note that that’s the end of the story, no answer from Yaakov. Shetika Kehoda’a, right? Maybe Yaakov acknowledges that it WAS, in fact, his fault.

    Love your blog BTW.

  • ifti99

    It’s only natural that if one hates someone, that hatred will eventually be returned. In any case, Yaakov had very good reason for this hatred; after all, Eisav sent his son to kill him. And after this, why would anyone expect him to give his daughter in marriage? Would you give your daughter in marriage to someone who hated you and tried to kill you?

    • Daniel M

      When did Eisav send his son to kill Yakov? (Sincere question, I don’t remember this in the text but I may have overlooked it).

      • ifti99

        It’s in many commentaries. Here is just one source:

        • Daniel M

          That’s not in the pshat. There is no mention in the Torah of Esav’s son trying to kill Yakov as far as I can see.

          • ifti99

            Daniel: There are many thoughts not explicitly written in the Torah. For example, the entire story about Avraham being thrown into the fiery furnace by Nimrod is not there, even though this story is accepted by non-Jews as well. Additionally, the written Torah does not explicitly state to fast on Yom Kippur: it says to :”afflict ourselves”. it also does not describe how to fashion tefillin or what they are supposed to look like. All these things are part of commentaries such as the Oral Torah (Mishnah and Gemara) and commentaries.

            • Daniel M

              Once you use a midrash to buttress another midrash, you start building a pretty wobbly explanation. Midrash comes to explain pshat — not the other way around and not to explain another drash.

              Eisav sending his son to kill Yakov is not the reason for Yakov’s proposed hatred of Eisav. The reason for Yakov’s hatred must be in the pshat if you are going to use it to help explain the drash of the TT.

  • Daniel M

    It’s explicitly stated that Yakov hated Leah, so it’s not like the middah of hate was foreign to him.