The Torah portion of Toldos concludes1 by relating how “Esav saw that the daughters of Canaan [his first wives] were displeasing to his father Yitzchak. Esav therefore went to Yishmael and took Mochlas — daughter of Avraham’s son Yishmael — for a wife, in addition to his other wives.”

Rashi2 explains that by marrying Mochlas “an additional measure of evil was added to his [Esav’s] previous evil deeds, in that he did not divorce his first wives.”

Rashi’ s comment must be understood. Esav’s evil deed did not begin when he married Mochlas; his guilt in not divorcing the wicked Canaanite women had existed from the time he married them. What does Rashi mean when he states that specifically at the time of his marriage to Mochlas an additional evil deed was done by not divorcing his first wives?

Esav’s evil in marrying his first wives was not only in that their conduct was “a source of bitterness to Yitzchak and Rivkah.3 “ Rather, it lay in his deceit and trickery.

Thus Rashi notes on the verse4 “When Esav was 40 years old he married…,” that “Esav was likened to a swine … When a swine lies down it stretches out its [cloven] hooves, thereby saying: ‘Behold, I am pure.’ So too, those who steal and rob display themselves to be kosher. For 40 years Esav would merely capture women … When he reached 40 he said: ‘Father married at 40, so I too shall do so.’ ”

This is what Rashi is saying here as well. Just as his first marriage was a sham — he married so that people would say he was conducting himself like his pious father Yitzchak — so too was his marriage to Mochlas: he took a fine woman only in order that Yitzchak would think he was repenting.

In point of fact this was a ruse, the proof being that “he did not divorce his first wives.” In other words, marrying a fine and upstanding woman while retaining his original evil wives proved that this latter marriage was nothing but subterfuge.

All stories related in the Torah are meant to serve as lessons in our spiritual service.5 The lesson here is that the offense of trickery lies not only in that a person deceives others, but rather that the very trait itself is despicable — just as Esav’s additional evil consisted of the deceit and chicanery itself.

This will be better understood by comparing the differences between the chronicles of Esav as related in Toldos to the chronicles as they are related in Vayishlach. Toldos mainly recounts details of Esav’s life that relate to his father, Yitzchak, while Vayishlach tells of Esav’s life in relation to his brother, Yaakov.

There is a major difference between the two: Esav attempted to fool his father so that he would think him righteous.6 With Yaakov, however, no such attempt was made; he fought him openly.

This too is a lesson in the spiritual service of every Jew. Two types of evil have to be confronted — open and revealed evil, and an evil that conceals itself behind seeming good.

Just as it is important to battle mightily against unadorned evil, it is even more necessary to battle against evil that is intermingled with good — concealed evil. The struggle against this form of evil is much more difficult.

Thus we find that Yaakov was forced to stay in Lavan’s house for 20 years, while his confrontation with Esav lasted only a day, as the verse states:7 “Esav returned on that day on his way to Seir.”

The reason for the difference in the duration of conflict is explained thus.8 Lavan the Deceiver confronted Yaakov in a deceptive manner. Dealing with this form of concealed evil took a long time. Esav, however, confronted Yaakov with palpable malevolence. Yaakov was able to readily identify this form of evil and overcome it quickly.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXV, pp. 113-118.