Toldot: Unconditional Love

Who Are You?

Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for game, but Rebecca loved Jacob. – Gen. 25:28

Why does Isaac’s love for Esau have a reason, but Rebecca’s love for Jacob doesn’t? .

The Netziv (1816-1893) teaches that there are two kinds of love. The first is love for the person himself. The second is love for what the person does for you. Isaac loves Esau because he enjoys the delicious meat his son brings him, but Rebecca’s love for Jacob is unconditional. She loves him for who he is, not what he does.

In our modern society, it is common when meeting someone new to ask, “What do you do?” The Dubno Maggid (quoted by Rabbi Frand) says that this represents Esav’s values. If we admire others because of what they accomplish, then if they stop accomplishing we’ll stop admiring him. Jacob represents Jewish values. What someone does for a living is less important than the kind of person they are, and if we love someone for their essential qualities rather than what they can do for us, that love will never fade.

Image: “Jacob’s Departure” by Rodolfo Amoedo, 1884

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