"A nd he took Machalas, the daughter of Yishmael…in addition to his other wives, as a wife.” (Bereishis 28:9)

Rashi quotes Bereishis Rabbah (67:13) that Eisav added wickedness upon his wickedness, for he did not divorce his first wives.

Chazal tell us that Eisav saw that the daughters of Canaan were not pleasing in his father’s eyes, so he went to Yishmael. Rabi Yehoshua ben Levi says that Eisav even decided to convert. Therefore, this wife is called Machalas because Hashem forgave him for all his sins.

Says Rav: If he had gotten rid of his first wives, it would have been a good thing. But here, he added “pain upon pain,” because he didn’t divorce the first ones. (Rav Meir Rubman, Zichron Meir)

“I’m trying not to lose my mind.”

“You lost it a long time ago,” I joked as I adjusted the phone against my neck.

“No, seriously, I know everyone complains that all they want to do is climb into bed and do nothing, but when you have to do that, you realize how insane it is!”

I felt so bad for Tzipora. We’ve been friends for years and this was the fourth pregnancy she was spending in bed. I decided to go visit her the next day.

We learn something amazing here. The quality of Eisav’s respect for his father brought him to a situation where he considered converting, and furthermore, to a level that Hashem forgave him for all his sins. But because he didn’t divorce his first wives, he was left with his wickedness.

We see the importance of repenting fully. Sometimes a person wakes up and decides to better his ways. He starts increasing his good deeds, but still doesn’t see a difference in his spiritual level. The reason is because he didn’t uproot the core of what was flawed inside him.

Tzipora was so happy to see me that I felt bad I couldn’t come more often. The hours of boredom were taking their toll on her.

“What ideas can we think of to keep you busy?” I wanted to help her.

“I don’t know. I’m having such a hard time getting through each day.” Her voice sounded dead. “I think I’m at the point where I need to buy some secular books and movies to pass the time. There’s a limit to how many shiurim I can listen to, and sometimes I can’t even concentrate — I just need to blank out. I’ll only buy what’s in keeping with my standards. Still, I’m not sure I’m so comfortable with the idea. But at this point I’m counting how many seconds there are per day!”

I couldn’t venture an opinion on Tzipora’s dilemma, but at least there was some life in her voice as she debated the topic.

The baalei mussar give an example: Suppose a man gets on a train, wanting to travel eastward. In the middle of the journey, he realizes that he accidently boarded a westbound train. Jumping up from his seat, he starts running eastward down the train’s aisle! How foolish!

How will that help while the train’s continuing to travel west? He needs to get off at the nearest stop and board a train that’s traveling in his desired direction.

It was a relief and a huge simchah a few months later to finally hear that Tzipora gave birth to a healthy baby girl. A couple of weeks later, I dropped by and spent a few minutes cooing over baby Shulamis.

“You know what I did today?” Tzipora announced suddenly.

“Besides dishes, laundry, and making supper?”

“I keep telling you, those things are fun when you haven’t been able to do them for months. But I did something else today.”

There was a teasing smile on her face so I took the bait. “Okay, what?”

“You know all those books and videos I ended up buying to keep me busy during my bed rest? Well, today”—she paused for dramatic effect—“I threw them all out.”

“Why? Didn’t they cost you plenty of money? And what if you need them again?”

“Look, I hope I’ll always be healthy. Realistically, though, I know I may need to be in bed again in the future. But still, right now I don’t need them. And right now they’re not what I want to have in my house. If I need them again, I’ll buy them again. It’s worth the wasted money to be free of them now.”

One moment’s treasure, another moment’s trash. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 567)