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Monday, November 28, 2022
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In our parsha, the Torah (21:15-17) describes a man married to two wives—one referred to as the “loved” one, and the other the “hated” one. While the husband prefers to give a double inheritance to the son of the wife he “loves,” the Torah declares that he does not have the authority to do so—he is instead commanded to give the double inheritance to the rightful firstborn, even if he is from the “hated” wife.

At first glance, the Torah is discussing a hypothetical scenario. However, I once heard from Rabbi David Fohrman that if we look closely at the text, we find that our parsha is actually referencing an earlier story in the Torah.

The first hint to this reference lies in the words the Torah uses to describe the two wives—the “hated” one, and the “loved” one. The only woman in the Torah referred to explicitly as “hated” is Leah (Bereishit 29:31). Not only that, but this description is mentioned in contrast to Yaacov’s feelings for Rachel, whom he “loved” (29:30).

Additionally, a few other words in the pesukim before us seem peculiar. The Torah commands the husband “to recognize the firstborn of the hated wife to give him a double portion from all that is found to be his.” The words “yakir” (to recognize) and “asher yimatzei lo” (all that is found to be his) seem strangely superfluous. They don’t add much to what the Torah is saying.

In contrast, in another place in Tanach, these two words appear together prominently. After the brothers sell Yosef, they dip his cloak in blood. They then present the cloak to Yaacov—as evidence of Yosef’s demise—with the words “zot matzanu, haker na” (this we found, please recognize it). The appearance of these terms in both locations indicates that the Torah in Ki Teitzei is deliberately referencing the story of Yaacov Avinu and his family.

Once we consider the evidence, suggests Rav Fohrman, the reference itself becomes clear.

Yaacov married two wives, the younger (Rachel) whom he loved more than the older (Leah). Years later, Yaacov favors his son Yosef over his other sons. While the reason for his favoritism isn’t clear, it’s logical to assume that it’s connected to Yosef being the firstborn of Rachel, his beloved wife. Yaacov even gives Yosef a special gift, a ketonet pasim—which some commentaries suggest represented the extra portion of the firstborn. And later, Yosef ultimately receives a double portion, when his sons Menashe and Ephraim are counted amongst the tribes of Yaacov. These actions indicate that Yaacov viewed Yosef as his true firstborn, the real heir to his legacy.

It appears, therefore, that the words in our parsha are clearly directed towards the story of Yaacov and his family. And the Torah commands us that when faced with a similar situation, we must not commit Yaacov’s mistake of favoring one son over the other. Rather, the true firstborn must rightfully receive the double portion—the father may not choose a different, favorite, son to receive it instead.

Through this, the Torah highlights for us the dangers of favoritism. While Yaacov’s actual intentions are the subject of debate, the straightforward understanding of the story indicates that Yaacov’s favoritism of Yosef caused animosity to develop between Yosef and his brothers, ultimately leading to the sale of Yosef. Of course, we cannot ignore the contributions that Yosef himself may have made to the dynamic, nor can we absolve the brothers of their actions. It seems clear, however, that the animosity arose when Yaacov began favoring Yosef. Our parsha, therefore, emphasizes following the regular rules of inheritance—and not favoring one child over another—because of the animosity that could result.

As parents, we’re all aware of the danger of favoritism—the pain it can cause and the impact it can have on the entire family. We don’t need to be told not to favor one child over another; most parents genuinely love each child uniquely.

But we also cannot ignore the fact that parents are human—and some parents may connect to a certain child’s personality or find difficulty with another child’s temperament. Sometimes, it’s not a specific child, but rather a particular age that can be challenging. Different kids may bring out different sides of their parents.

And yet, we must be extremely conscious not to show favoritism. It is understandable and normal for a parent to feel a unique connection to one child more than another—but that unique connection cannot cause differences in the way that we show our love and affection to our children. Every single one of our children must be made to feel that we love them deeply and uniquely—no less than their other siblings.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that every child must always be treated equally. As we’ve noted in the past, each child has varying personalities and needs, and therefore each must be treated and raised differently. Yet, each must also feel that despite those differences, their parents love them deeply and uniquely for who they are.

In this week’s parsha, our Torah commands a father not to show favoritism amongst his kids, as it hints to the story of Yaacov Avinu and to the destruction that his favoritism towards Yosef caused. We, as well, must be extra vigilant not to let our kids feel any sense of favoritism towards one or another—as the negative impact such favoritism can have on the family dynamic is huge.

Shabbat Shalom!


Rav Yossi Goldin is the menahel tichon at Yeshivas Pe’er HaTorah, Rebbe at Midreshet Tehilla, and Placement Advisor/Internship Coordinator for the YU/RIETS Kollel. He lives with his family in Shaalvim and can be reached at [email protected]

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