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Parsha Toldos - Third time lucky by Rabbi Mordechai Shifman

“And Eisav went to Yishmael and took Machlas, the daughter of Yishmael, sister of Nevayos, in addition to his wives, as a wife for himself” (28:9)

  At the end of this parsha Eisav marries Machlas. However, in Parshas Vayishlach, the Torah refers to her as Bosmas. Rashi cites a Midrash saying that her name was really Bosmas, but the Torah refers to her as Machlas, from the word “mechila” - “forgiveness.” This teaches that when a person marries, his sins are forgiven. Why does the Torah wait until Eisav marries a third wife to relay this message?

The Maharal explains that the reason why a person is granted forgiveness when he gets married is that he becomes a new entity upon marriage. The Talmud teaches that a person who is not married does not bear the title of “Adam.” Initially, Adam was created both male and female, and only later was he divided into two. Hashem’s intent in creating man in this manner was to indicate that Adam’s perfect state is achieved when he is both male and female; marriage creates this reality. Therefore, until a person is married, he does not bear the title “Adam.” Prior to marriage a person is considered only half a body. Therefore, explains the Maharal, when he marries, he transforms into a new entity and consequently his slate is clean.

When Avraham sends Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak, he forbids him to take a girl from the children of Canaan because “one who is cursed cannot cleave to one who is blessed.” The children of Canaan, who were cursed by Noach, cannot marry the descendants of Avraham who are blessed.

Eisav’s first two wives were of Cananite descent, while he was a descendant of Avraham. Therefore, a true union with them could not be achieved. However, Eisav’s third wife was Bosmas, the daughter of Yishmael, a descendant of Avraham. With her, Eisav could unite to form a new reality. Only with her could forgiveness be attained. This interpretation is substantiated by the verses. When Eisav marries his first two wives, the Torah records “vayikach ishah” - “He took a wife.” However, when he marries Bosmas, the Torah records “vayikach lo ishah” - “He took a wife for himself .” Since Eisav was a descendant of Avraham, only Bosmas could be considered “for himself”, while the other two could never be for him.

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