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Parashat Toledot – Taking Good to Great


“When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors, but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp”.

We see that, from the very beginning of their youth, the twins, Jacob and Esau, had very different natural tendencies.

King Solomon said: “Train a youth according to his talents, even when he grows old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna explains that every child has his own unique character and has his unique weaknesses.

If your training and teaching of the child is in accordance with his unique characteristics, they will stay with him.  If you try to mold the child into something that is out of compliance with his innate endowments, you may succeed temporarily.  However, just as a bent twig will return to its former shape when the pressure is removed so will the child abandon the training that was not in accordance with his skills.

Wise parents will get to know their children thoroughly and wise teachers will get to know their students. They will know the child’s interests and innate strengths and capabilities.  They will not assert their own will in a way that is incompatible with the child’s born talents. Only then can their training and teaching be lasting.

We find this from Jacob himself.  When, as a parent, he came to bless his own sons at the end of his life, he gave a unique blessing that was appropriate for each one. His blessings were expectations for each child who was expected to perform according to his unique ability.

What Jacob knew, and what we can learn from him, is that we can take a child from good to great by recognizing and fostering that child’s specific abilities and strengths.