As we all know, Abraham had two descendants, Yishmael and Yitschak. Yitschak also had two descendants, Esav and Yaakob; however only the children of Yaakob were the nation that was chosen for the Torah, and Abraham is considered the starter of that nation.

Some may say that Yishmael lost eligibility for the Torah as he was “Pere Adam”: “וְה֤וּא יִהְיֶה֙ פֶּ֣רֶא אָדָ֔ם יָד֣וֹ בַכֹּ֔ל וְיַ֥ד כֹּ֖ל בּ֑וֹ וְעַל־פְּנֵ֥י כׇל־אֶחָ֖יו יִשְׁכֹּֽן׃”.

Now for Esav, people say that he wasn’t eligible for the Torah, as he tried to kill Yaakob; however, Shimon and Levi when to massacre the village of Shechem, and they were still allowed to receive the Torah.

Why wasn’t the Torah given to all of the descendants of Abraham? More importantly, why was the Torah specifically not given to the descendants of Esav?

  • Hashem gave the Torah only after three righteous generations. That's how I was taught.
    – ElonMusk
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 7:57

3 Answers 3


Hashem did offer the Torah to the descendants of Yismoel and Esav (as well as many other groups) . They refused to accept it. (Sifri, Deuteronomy 343)

When Hashem offered them the Torah to the descendants of Esav, they asked, “What are its laws?” When Hashem told them that one of its laws was “You shall not murder,” they said, “How can we accept the Torah? That law goes against our very nature, as Yitzchak said to our father, Esav, “And you will live by the Sword!

When he offered it to the descendants of Yishmael, they could not then, and they cannot now, deal with the prohibition against stealing etc.

On another note: Avrohm had more sons than just Yishmael and Yitzchok. He had another six with Ketura (possibly another name for Hagar)

  • 1
    לא תגנוב בגונב נפשות הכתוב מדבר
    – msh210
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 17:51
  • @msh210 Stealing is prohibited in the Torah though either way, but the question stands on the Sifri which does use "לא תגנוב". Maybe the Sifri uses it slightly out of its meaning in order to keep the 10 Commandments theme. I will offer no comment on whether בגונב נפשות is equally applicable to Yishmael today,
    – AKA
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 21:23

Bereshis 21:12 says, in response to Sarah's rejection of Yishmael, that Avraham's lineage will indeed go through Yitzchak:

כִּי בְיִצְחָק יִקָּרֵא לְךָ זָרַע

In Sanhedrin 59b and Nedarim 31a, it's explained that the word ביצחק (through Yitzchak, as opposed to just יצחק), teaches us that Esav is also excluded from the Jewish lineage.


I heard a drash last week that Esav could have been the heir to the covenant with Abraham and eventually been given the Torah, but that it was his own choice in selling the birthright, in not valuing what he was given, that led to his losing the blessing. Had he been a different person who valued the promise, then today we could be thinking of ourselves as the Children of Esav, and Jacob would merely be a minor figure in our history.

The Rav who gave this explanation combined it with the idea that Leah had been intended for Esav on high, that when Jacob said to his father "I am Esav", he was stepping into Esav's role both as father of the nation and husband of Leah. For this reason Jacob was allowed to marry two sisters, which is not like other ervah, bring specified "while the first wife is alive". In other words, it is not a perversion, it is for the sake of peace, which Rachel and Leah did not always have, but was allowed in this case because Jacob was acting as both himself and the replacement for his unworthy twin Esav.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .