A fascinating question emerges from the first few pesukim of this week’s sedra.
We are told that when Esav is born, he emerged red: “וַיֵּצֵא הָרִאשׁוֹן אַדְמוֹנִי “. Yet, he is only called Edom (red) as a result of an incident 15 years later when he guzzles down the red lentils being cooked by his brother Yaakov.
וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו אֶל יַעֲקֹב, הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם הַזֶּה כִּי עָיֵף, אָנֹכִי; עַל כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמוֹ, אֱדוֹם. (בראשית כה,ל)
And Esav said to Yaakov, “Pour into me now some of that very red stuff for I am exhausted; He therefore called his name Edom
Why was he not called Edom or red from day one? Why wait until some obscure incident so many years later?
Rav Shaul Katzenellebogen gives a remarkable answer. Character traits are parev. They are neutral and can be directed in positive or negative ways. A person can be blessed with the IQ of a genius but act like a fool, and one can lack a high IQ and yet act with wisdom. A person may be born with strong leadership qualities or an ability to draw or sing and can use these traits positively or negatively. This is true for all abilities and capabilities.
Esav was born with a propensity towards the physical. That is what the red symbolised. He should have used his potential to be a partner with Yaakov to bring the world to perfection. Instead Esav chose to use his abilities and character traits negatively.
Esav was not called Edom or red from birth because at that stage it was all potential. It was only 15 years later where it became clear which path in life he chose.
One of the privileges and indeed enormous responsibilities of being involved in chinuch is helping students to channel their potential positively. The role of the teacher and parent is to help children discover who they are; what abilities and capabilities they have and empower them and help them actualise their potential.
May we all succeed in this critical role and see much success and nachas from all our children.
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi J Golker