Good-Hearted Hunting by Rabbi Ezra Wiener


The concept of Berachah recitation appears often in Sefer BeReishit. Yitzchak gives a Berachah to his sons when he senses impending death (according to Chazal, because he was now within five years of his mother’s death), and Yaakov gives a Berachah to his sons and his grandsons, Efrayim and Menasheh. These are, of course, in addition to the many Berachot that Hashem confers upon the Avot. However, the setting of the Berachah in Parashat Toledot differs from the other Berachot in Sefer BeReishit. Yitzchak insists that the Berachah be granted only in the context of a meal, or perhaps after a meal. Why is this necessary? Why do we get the impression that the blessing can take effect only under these precise conditions?

A simple suggestion may be that Yitzchak wants to be satisfied and is in a positive frame of mind. After all, Yitzchak’s comments on the food and states, “KaAsher Ahavti,” “As I enjoyed” (BeReishit 27:4). It is the enjoyment of the delicacies that sets the mood for the Berachah. Alternatively, one could suggest that the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av, fatherly respect, would render Eisav fit and deserving of the Berachah. Perhaps the act of honoring his father would symbolically establish the formal bond between father and son and would therefore serve to confirm that Eisav is the suitable son worthy of the Berachah. Additionally, perhaps the blessing of materialism, “VeYiten Lecha HaElokim MiTal HaShamayim UMiShemanei HaAretz,” “And may Hashem give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fat of the earth” (BeReishit 27:28), is conferred only upon a person who is willing to engage in his own Hishtadlut (loosely translated as “effort”). Eisav needs to demonstrate his will to earn a livelihood, and only then can the Berachah of Gashmiyut, material needs, be effective.

Rav Hirsch offers a novel interpretation that serves to substantiate the claim made by several commentators that Yitzchak is aware of the true personality of Eisav. The request to hunt for food corroborates the notion that Eisav is not yet the ideal servant of God. Yitzchak’s request of Eisav to bring him some game is essentially a cue for Eisav’s future calling – an approval on the one hand of his association with an interest in hunting, but a hope that his natural tendencies would come to be employed for moral purposes. Eisav should learn to hunt not only for sport but to procure food for those in need. It is not in Eisav’s character to hunt for the purpose of generosity. He is not magnanimous by nature, but, as a Bechor, firstborn, of Avraham’s family, he needs to be.

In addition, this sheds light on another difficulty in the Pesukim. The Pasuk states, “VaYeilech Eisav HaSadeh Latzud Tzayid Lehavi,” “And Eisav went out to the field to hunt game to bring” (BeReishit 27:5). The word “Lehavi”, meaning “to bring”, seems to be superfluous. Rashi (s.v. Latzud Tzayid Lehavi) comments that from “Lehavi,” we learn that Eisav will fulfill his mission regardless of any circumstances. Sometimes he does find game. But whenever he doesn’t, then “Lehavi,” he will find it another way – through thievery. 

According to Rav Hirsch’s interpretation, Eisav hunts with Yitzchak’s intent in mind. He isn’t going to hunt for sport as he does typically, but rather, “Lehavi” – in order to bring food home to his old father.

Yitzchak grows up in the house of ultimate Kiruv, reaching out. He learns from Avraham that with the right approach, anyone can be brought Tachat Kanfei HaShechinah, under God’s loving protection. Eisav is no different. If he would channel his interest, his strength, and his drive for good, for humanity, and for Tikkun Olam, he then would also be worthy of a Berachah from the One above.

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