Parashat Toldot: Hard Work and Effort
The Torah in Parashat Toldot tells the story of the blessings which Yishak Abinu wished to bestow upon his older son, Esav, but which were taken by the younger son, Yaakob. Yishak informed Esav of his desire to bless him, and instructed him to go out to the field, hunt an animal, and prepare the meat for him, so that in the merit of this Misva he would be worthy of his blessing.
After Esav left, Ribka, who heard Yishak’s commands to Esav, plotted to have Yaakob receive the Berachot, instead. As Yishak was blind, Ribka needed only to dress Yaakob in Esav’s special garments so he would feel like his brother. The Torah says that Ribka dressed Yaakob in "Bigdeh Esav…Ha’hamudot" – Esav’s "precious" garments. The Sages explain that these garments had been passed down since the time of Adam, and had the special power to attract animals. In fact, this is how Noah brought all the animals onto the ark – by attracting them through these garments. Esav received this clothing and would wear it when he went hunting. The animals would be drawn to him, and this is how Esav could easily catch them. Esav used this power for the sake of the Misva of Kibbud Ab – honoring his father, as he would quickly catch animals and prepare meat for Yishak. According to the Midrash, these were the garments in which Ribka dressed Yaakob when he came before Yishak disguised as Esav to receive the blessings.
Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (1881-1966), in his Oznayim La’Torah commentary, notes the obvious question that arises from the Midrash’s comments. If, indeed, the "Bigdeh Esav Ha’hamudot" were the garments which Esav wore while hunting to prepare meat for his father, so why wasn’t Esav wearing them at this time? Yitshak had just commanded him to prepare meat; seemingly, this was precisely the time when Esav would wear his special garments to help him out in the hunt. Why were they at home?
Rav Sorotzkin offers several answers, one of which is that Yitshak specifically asked Esav to hunt the animals naturally, without using his special garments, so that he would need to work hard and thereby earn reward. As the Mishna in Abot (5:23) famously teaches, "Le’fum Sa’ara Agra" – the harder one needs to work in fulfilling a Misva, the greater his reward is. Yishak wanted Esav to be worthy of the great blessings which he now wished to grant him, and so he told Esav to go out and hunt an animal without the miraculous power of the special garments, which made hunting quick and easy.
When it comes to performing Misvot, we should not be looking for shortcuts, or for the easy way out. The quality of our Misvot depends, to a large extent, on the hard work and effort that we invest in them. And so we must not expect Misva observance to be easy, and we certainly must not despair when challenges and obstacles get in the way. We must remember that it is specifically through the exertion of effort that our Misvot become precious and valuable, and bring us immense rewards.