In this week’s Parsha we learn how Yitzchak wanted to give his blessings to the wicked Eisav. Rivka advises Yaakov how to trick Yitzchak in order that he (Yaakov) should receive the blessings. Yaakov successfully pretends to be his brother and Yitzchak blesses him, but later discovers the trick. In the end Yitzchak gives a different blessing to Eisav as well. There are a few obvious questions usually asked regarding this entire episode. Why was it necessary for Yaakov to pretend to be his brother? If Eisav was so wicked, why did Yitzchak want to bless him in the first place? Why was Yaakov permitted to lie? How did the blessing take effect if it was given to the wrong person? Why did not Yitzchak curse the “usurper” as soon as he found out about the trick? Last but not least: what’s the difference between the two blessing anyway? Was not the beginning of Eisav’s blessing actually quite similar to Yaakov’s<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>? So why then did he then hate his brother so much for tricking him?
To better understand this obscure passage in the
Torah we have to go back and remember two important pieces of information: the
prediction Rivka received when she was still pregnant with the two brothers,
and the selling of the birthright, described in this week’s Parsha. Our sages
tell us that in many ways our matriachs had a greater understanding and even
deeper prophetic vision than their husbands (see Midrash Tanchuma, Shemos 1:1,
Rashi on Bereishis 21:12). For instance, Sarah discerned the danger of leaving
Yishmael in the household, while Avraham was biased and did not want to send
away his son. In the case of our Parsha, Rivka understood the nature of Eisav
better than Yitzchak did. Moreover, since she was already prophetically told,
that her two children will be the different from one another, with the older
serving the younger, she realized that Eisav is a wicked son<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Rivka
received this prophesy when she went to the
It is known in the writings of Kabala (and we
discussed this in our commentary to Parshas Noach and Parshas Vayera) that
Yitzchak’s soul had to do with the Sefirah of “Gevurah” (strength and
judgment). Eisav inherited this characteristic from his father, and this is one
of the reasons why Yitzchak always felt a special closeness to his firstborn
son. In general, from Yitzchak’s point of view, Eisav’s qualities could have
been used for good, there would a division of responsibility: Yaakov – learning
the Torah, while Eisav (and his descendants) – protecting them from the nations
as well as serving in the future
In general, Hashem tells His prophets about what He is planning to do (see Amos 3:7), but at times, when the need arises, some information is hidden from them. Normally, a person of Yitzchak’s caliber, deserving of having the Divine Presence constantly in his home, should have known that Eisav was wicked. However, for the time being even Yitzchak did not perceive the true nature of his firstborn son<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. In this case the whole rectification was prepared in the manner that Yaakov should get his blessings in a roundabout way<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. One of the reasons for this was that Yaakov was rectifying the sin of Adam (see or commentary to Parshas Vayera). Eisav, however, got attached to the spiritual root of the original serpent (and Satan himself – Eisav’s guardian angel). To reverse the effects of Adam’s sin, the tikun had to be that just as the serpent deceived Adam, now “Adam” had to deceive the “serpent”. Yaakov had to act in this awkward manner, posing as Eisav<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Another reason for this is the famous concept “Maasey Avos Siman Lebonim<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>” – the deeds of the forefathers are a harbinger of what will happen to their descendants. (Ramban, in his Torah commentary brings many examples of the events that happened to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov and how they correspond to the future history of the Jewish people.) In the future our nation would frequently have to resort to all sorts of tricks in order to survive in the hostile environment among the nations of the world, the descendants of Eisav.
Even though we can now understand the underlying factors behind Yaakov’s trickery, we still have to comprehend why it was permitted? For one thing, Rivka received a prophecy, that Yaakov should get this blessing even using such tricky methods (see Targum Onkelus Bereishis 27:13); so the permission to lie was based on a general principle, that a prophet can temporarily permit any prohibition except idol worship (see Talmud, Yevamos 90b; Sanhedrin 89b).
We can understand Yaakov’s behavior even better if
we will remind ourselves of the second piece of information: Eisav had already
sold the birthright to Yaakov. According to Rashi, this birthright primarily
consisted of the right to serve in the future
Once Yitzchak blessed Yaakov, he prophetically felt that the blessing took effect and was successful for the one for whom it was intended. This is why, even after Yitzchak’s beloved son came back, he did not curse Yaakov “the usurper” but on the contrary said: “let him be blessed” (Ramban 27:33). Moreover, our sages teach us (Bereishis Raba 65:22) that Yitzchak felt the Gehinom open before him as soon as Eisav entered. From now on, there was no longer any reason for Hashem to continue hiding the true nature of Eisav from his father. The prophet could now tell the wickedness of his son right away. He did not even want to give him any blessings at all. In the end he did give him a brocha.
At fist glance, the blessings of Eisav seem to be so similar to Yaakov’s brochos. However, there are major distinctions between them (see Zohar 1:143b, and the GR”A’s commentary there). The blessing of Yaakov starts with the name of Hashem, while Eisav’s blessings plainly states what he will get without any Divine Name mentioned. The blessings of Yaakov start with the dew of Heaven, and then the fatness of the earth is mentioned, for Yaakov receives everything from Above. However, Eisav’s blessing first mentions the fatness of the earth and then the dew of Heaven. After all, Eisav is “attached” just below, and it is only through his guardian angel’s “accusations” (of our nation not keeping the commandments) that Eisav can rise higher and receive any dominion (see below).
The blessings of Yaakov are ten in number, they correspond to ten Sefiros, and they rectify the ten curses of Adam (Zohar ibid). Eisav, however, got a total of three blessings. The GR”A (on the Zohar ibid) explains that they correspond to the three types of Satan: Yetzer Hara (evil inclination), angel of death and the Satan himself (see Talmud, Bava Basra 16a). These three correspond in our bodies to the liver, spleen and the gallbladder<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
Eisav is supposed to be
subordinate to Yaakov. However, Eisav is promised that if the descendants of Yaakov
misbehave, he will have a possibility to break off Yaakov’s yoke and have his
own dominion. For the time our nation was righteous,
And so we have been in the Roman
exile for almost 2000 years, and because of our sins
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Both were promised the fatness of the land and the dew of Heaven.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> A famous question is then asked regarding the freedom of choice of Eisav. As we mentioned in Parshas Lech Lecha, in many cases the prophecies are revealed in an obscure way, so as not to interfere with the freedom of choice. Here too, if Eisav would choose to be good, he could actually “serve” Yaakov by helping him learn the Torah, providing for him and protecting him. In fact, Eisav would then stay as part of the chosen nation (Ramchal in the second part of Kinas Hashem Tzeva-os explains this in depth starting with Maamar: Inyan Eisav, in the standard edition of Ginzey Ramchal it’s on page 111). Eisav would marry Leah, Yaakov would marry Rochel, and each one would do his rectification. The prophecy of Rivka would be fulfilled with “the sons going in different directions” – i.e. one working on the material world, protecting the other, who learns Torah (like the later partnership of Yissachar and Zevulun, see Talmud Sotah 21a; Bereishis Raba 99:8). However, once Eisav did not fulfill his potential, Yaakov had to work on both fronts, he married both Leah and Rochel and also got an additional name – Yisroel.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The
service in the
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> We similarly find that Yaakov did not know that his sons sold Yosef, as we will discuss when we get to Parshas Vayeishev.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> At a later time Yaakov will get more experience in deceit when he will have to deal with Lavan the swindler, (see also Talmud, Megillah 13b).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Shlucho Shel Adam Kamoso – a messenger of a person is like himself (Talmud Chagiga 10b and in many other places). According to Rashi (27:36), as soon as Yitzchak found out that Yaakov bought the birthright from Eisav, he was no longer worried and understood that the blessing came to the one that was supposed to receive it.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In the body of a tzadik, even these organs are holy and purified, for the righteous serve Hashem even with their Yetzer Hara. However, by average people, some internal organs are projections from the worlds of holiness, while these three are projections of the Sitra Achara – the impure worlds given to Satan’s domain and there is a constant “battle” between the different organs of the body (see for instance Midrash Haneelam in Zohar 1:138b).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Measure for Measure – the Divine standard of reward and retribution.