A Family Divided by Ely Winkler


This week’s Parsha contains the famous story of Yaakov tricking his father into thinking that he was Esav in order to receive the Brachot of the firstborn.  This story has led many people to numerous conclusions, including that the Jew is always dishonest.  However, a careful study of the Pesukim sheds a different light on this topic.  The story begins with Yitzchak asking Esav to go hunt for game to serve to him before he gives the Brachah.  Rivkah overhears this conversation and begs Yaakov to go to Yitzchak as an imposter and receive the blessings first.  Yaakov reluctantly agrees and allows his mother to prepare foods and to dress him up to go to his father posing as Esav. After verifying that this person bringing his food is indeed “Esav,” Yitzchak does bestow the sacred blessing on Yaakov right before the real Esav comes home from the hunt.

To understand Rivkah’s reasoning, we must first look at the original fight between Rivkah and Yitzchak.  This fight was over two elements that were represented by Yaakov and Esav.  Yitzchak saw the material power in Esav, while Rivkah saw the spiritual power in Yaakov.  Both factors were necessary for the future of Bnai Yisrael.  Yitzchak might have believed that the promise of Hashem was supposed to be carried on by both Esav and Yaakov as brotherly nations complementing each other.  Therefore, he planned on giving Esav a blessing of material content, and one of spiritual content to Yaakov.  Rivkah, on the other hand, knew from her brother and her own upbringing that such a division would fail.  She recognized the curse that arises out of materialism without spirituality.  Rivkah, unlike Yitzchak, saw Yaakov with both of these forces in his hands.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that we must accept the words of our Talmudic sages to understand this story. We also must not try to overlook anything about the events recorded here.  Rav Hirsch examines what Rivkah thought she would gain by sending Yaakov in as an imposter.  She knew from the beginning that Yaakov would not be able to hide what he did for long.  Esav was scheduled to return, and there was no way to keep Yaakov’s actions a secret.  Accordingly, if this was a blessing that Hashem was to give through Yitzchak, how could Rivkah expect Hashem to bless someone receiving it by trickery?  How could the blessing of Avraham, which was then passed to Yitzchak, move on to the next generation through an imposter?  Also, if this blessing also had some kind of legal status to it, how could Rivkah expect the status to be binding?  The Brachah would have been given under false pretences, and could be repealed!

Rav Hirsch explains that Rivkah had very different intentions.  She really wanted to prove to Yitzchak that he was mistaken about who should be receiving this blessing.  If Yaakov, a person unlearned in the ways of the world, could so easily trick Yitzchak to believe he was the material son Esav, than how easily could Esav, a cunning hunter, trick Yitzchak into thinking that he was the learned one!  This explanation is proven by the words that Yitzchak himself says in his conversation with Esav, “...he shall even be blessed!”  Yitzchak does not take away Yaakov’s blessing here; in fact, he validates it.

When Yitzchak was forced to come to terms with how short Esav fell in terms of spiritual insight, and when he found out that Esav had rejected his destiny by selling his birthright, he was convinced that Rivkah was right.  He therefore validated Yaakov’s blessings, and recognized Yaakov as the sole spiritual inheritor of the blessings.

It is true that it is forbidden to disobey the Torah even at the request of a parent, but Yaakov saw in his mother’s demand an aspect of prophetic wisdom that made him listen to her.  There are times when the rules, if prophetically stated, can be pushed aside for a greater purpose.  Yaakov’s actions were directly in conflict with his true essence that opposed all falsehood, cheating, and dishonesty.

As Jews, we need to be closely in touch with our heritage of honesty.  We need to constantly be aware that we are the ones who make or break our forefather Yaakov’s image in the world.  Our actions directly affect people’s acceptance or rejection of the lies that have been perpetuated about Yaakov. We must take this responsibility seriously, and we should be proud and overjoyed that we are fortunate enough to have it.  Most of all, we should be sure never to cause a Chilul Hashem, a disgrace to Hashem’s name.

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