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Learning from Esau

Ben Zoma said, "Who is wise? He who learns from every person? (Avoth 4:1)

Esau is the person in the Torah who exemplifies Honoring One's Father. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel states that he wishes he fulfilled the commandment of Honoring one's father as Esau did, because Esau dressed in his finest clothing when he Honored Isaac.

Wouldn't it have been easier for Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel to simply dress up like Esau did, rather than go through life feeling this way? Certainly there is a deeper explanation of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel's words.

There are times when we look at someone who isn't as religious as we are and assume that their intentions are not sincere. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel may have been using Esau as the exemplary figure to stress that we should learn from every person, and not let our immediate sense of their lack of sincerity cause us to disregard their lesson.

- Adapted from R. Shafran's shiur at Agudath Shalom, 11/21/98

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