One of the Torah’s features is that it calls out its heroes when they make mistakes, as all humans do. R’ Shamshon Raphael Hirsch notes that this is a key element of the Torah’s credibility as a teaching instrument.
The story of Yakov and Esau is a fascinating case study of family dynamics:
וַיִּגְדְּלוּ, הַנְּעָרִים, וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד, אִישׁ שָׂדֶה; וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם, יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים – The boys grew up; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Yakov was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. (25:27)
Despite their sons’ different natures and latent abilities, Yitzchak and Rivka nurtured and raised the boys together – וַיִּגְדְּלוּ, הַנְּעָרִים – yet seemed surprised that they turned out differently – וַיְהִי.
Rashi criticizes this blanket parenting technique, citing the proverb in Mishlei advising parents to educate each child in his way; so that when he matures, he will not veer from it – חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר, עַל–פִּי דַרְכּוֹ– גַּם כִּי–יַזְקִין, לֹא–יָסוּר מִמֶּנָּה.
R’ Shlomo Farhi notes that the proverb advises parents to raise a child in “his” way, not “your” way – דַרְכּוֹ – and that the result will be not that he won’t veer from the way you taught him, but that he won’t veer from his own way – מִמֶּנָּה.
The Malbim remarks that different people need different things; and all people are different, regardless of the magnitude of difference.
R’ Hirsch notes that only at the end of his life could Yaakov recognize the diversity of his twelve sons, and blessed each of them with a personalized yet cohesive future – the scholars of Levi; the warrior-kings of Yehuda; the traders of Zevulun; cooperating as one united nation.
It was and is a mistake to raise Yakov and Eisav in the same way. Esav was one man to his father, and another to the world; but he could never be his authentic self to his father. Every moment Yitzchak spent lecturing Esau was a moment Esau couldn’t be himself – the man of the world – אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד, אִישׁ שָׂדֶה.
It is a truism that parents need to be on the same page, and it should be equally obvious that it is the unruly children that need the extra love, acceptance, and embrace.
Yitzchak and Rivka were not on the same page about how to raise Esau, which may be why she orchestrated the ruse for the blessings, to show how easily Yitzchak could be fooled.
It is entirely possible that the miscommunication and parenting mistakes between the parents generated the environment of competition and strife between their children, preventing them from being themselves, resulting in the jealousy and rivalry that defined the relationship between Esau and Yakov for most of their lives.
If your child grows up and goes down a path that you don’t approve of, trying to impose change will only cause alienation. Parents and teachers must always remember that as much as the Torah wants us all to be good people, the recipe, ingredients, and quantities are different for each of us.
We should not teach our children to be just like us. If we teach people to find themselves; they will never be lost.