In considering Avraham Avinu’s passing and his son Yitzchak’s aveilut (mourning) of his Father’s passing, there seem to be a number of burning questions which beg to be asked concerning the relationship between Yitzchak and Eisev.
In understanding that Eisev was largely able to camouflage his evil behind his ability to honor his Father, how is it that he (Eisev), this master of Kibud Av, is out running wild committing two of the Big 3 aveirot — Gilui Aroyot; violating a betrothed maiden, and murder; in chopping off Nimrod’s head and killing his (Nimrod’s) 2 guards on the day of his Father’s aveilut?
This author always had the understanding that Yitzchak favored the dishes that his favorite son Eisev prepared for him. In fact, on the day when Yitzchak called for Eisev to bestow the Bracha upon him, he requested that Eisev prepare his favorite dish. So, how is it then that Yaakov, rather than Eisev, was cooking the mourner’s lentils for his Father as Yitzchak mourned for his Father — Avraham Aveinu?
Did any of the mourners lentil stew actually make its way to Yitzchak after the famished Eisev gobbled it down? And, if so, did it appear strange strange to Yitzchak that Yaakov, not Eisev — the favorite son — prepared and served it?
And if the lentil stew never did reach Yitzchak, wouldn’t, shouldn’t it have raised questions as to why the son he loved, Eisev, failed to honor his Father in the moment of mourning with the traditional mourner’s lentils?
In retrospect, how is it that Eisev’s MIA status on the day of aveilut seemed not to have raised questions such as these and more in Yitzchak’s mind — if not during the aveilut period, then at least after the aveilut? How could it be that Eisev was not unmasked and shown for the rasha he was, notwithstanding his feigned righteousness, i.e. “how to tithe salt and straw”?
How is it that Eisev’s deception of his Father appeared successful right up until almost the moment for bestowing Bracha?
But while Yitzchak seemed blinded by mis-perception concerning Eisev’s worthiness for the birthright, it was Rifka, who was so imbued with the wisdom borne of her nuture living under the same roof with the evil Besuel and Lavan, who applied the conditions of her nurture L’Shem Shemayim when pushing Yaakov to go disguised as Eisev for Yitzchak’s Bracha.
And still later, we find that Yaakov, the “Ish Ta’am” of Parsha Vayeitzei benefitted from his Mother’s wisdom (in instilling in him the attribute of cunning, L’Shem Shemayim) when confronting Lavan — when having said to Rachel that “if Lavan is deceitful, I am his brother in deceit.”
Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in “Torah Tapestries” on Parsha Toldos (pages 81-98) indicates that 3 of our 4 Parsha characters: Yitzchak Avinu, Rivka Imeinu and Yaakov each seem to go against their natures in their respective tests in the run-up to the giving of the Bracha (blessing), while Eisev follows form and “does what he’s told, …brings food to his father and asks him for a blessing, and yet he is the one who is the big loser at the end of the story.”
Rebbetzin Smiles writes (“Torah Tapestries”, page 92):
The story of the brachot is not about three deceitful people… It is an account of three individuals and their monumental life tests to assess their abilities to grow beyond their natures: Yitzchak Avinu had to go against his nature of gevurah [living according to strict justice] and instead perform an act of chesed; Rivka Imeinu had to go against her nature to unite people and divide them instead; Yaakov Avinu had to go against his nature of being honest at all times and instead act with cunning — just because Hashem said so.
Rebbetzin Smiles (“Torah Tapestries”, pages 85-88) cites an essay by R’ Eliyahu Dessler in the sefer, “Strive for Truth” where R’ Dessler explores the concept of a bracha in order to better understand Yitzchak Avinu’s intentions and his Test:
…A bracha can never change the essence of a person or his free will. What a bracha can do is improve the circumstances that surround a person, in order to maximize his ability to become a better person.
Yitzchak Avinu…. knew very well the character of both sons. To say that he was blind and thought that Eisev was a great tzaddik would be to misunderstand the greatness of Yitzchak Avinu. There was something else going through Yitzchak Avinu’s mind.
…Yaakov didn’t need to be blessed because he was able to make it on his own in a relationship with Hashem. ….He would have to struggle a bit more but that would not bother him, because with hs whole nature directed toward closeness with Hashem, he would not mind the struggle.
Yitzchak Avinu realized that Eisev was an outward-focused person, …very different from Yaakov. Yet he believed that Eisev… was engaged in a continual battle with the lower, external aspects of his character, that he truly wanted to get close to Hashem, but was too immersed in the ongoing uphill struggle.
Yitzchak Avinu therefore thought to himself: If I have a son whose whole life is full of struggle, al pi din he deserves the bracha.
When Yitzchak Avinu sensed the fragrance of Gan Eden, he was taken aback by his awareness of this level of dedication and inwardness in the individual standing before him…. Speaking to himself: I’m a little bit confused here. On the one hand, my blessing is intended for an external-type person. On the other hand, the person standing in front of me seems to be someone who is very connected with Gan Eden.
Our Sages say that Hashem wanted the blessing to be given according to Hashem’s perspective and not Yitzchak Avinu’s…. Hashem hinted to him that the blessing should be delievered in line with the perspective of chesed.
Rebbetzin Smiles (“Torah Tapestries”, pages 89-90) cites Rabbi Eliyahu Yedid’s explanation of Rivka Imeinu’s Test:
…For sixty years, Rivka Imeinu guarded an important secret, a prophecy she shared with no one.
When Yaakov and Eisev were in her womb and struggling within her, she had gone to the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, to a Navi, for guidance and insight. There she received the prophecy: “…there are two nations in you… and two nations will come forth from within you… and the nations will struggle one with the other and the older one will serve the younger one.” (Sefer Breish’t Perek 25, posul 23)
Rivka Imeinu knew who deserved the blessing — the younger one, Yaakov. But since it was a prophecy and it was given to her and not to Yitzchak Avinu, she felt that she had to keep it to herself. She walked around for sixty years with this in her heart, wondering when she was going to see this prophecy played out. When she heard her husband tell Eisev that he was going to bless him, Rivka decided that… it was time to take action.
Rabbi Yedid’s key point is one to which many women can relate…. Rivka Imeinu ‘s struggle was the struggle of a mother who had to choose between two children whom she loved. We see… that throughout the chapter, she is referred to as the mother of both Yaakov and Eisev. For example; “Rivka took the special clothing of Eisev, her older son, which were with her in the house, and she dressed Yaakov, her younger son.” (Breish’t Perek 27, posuk 15)
Additionally, this posuk shows that Eisev didn’t trust his wives with his special clothing; his mother kept it for him. There was a special relationship between Rivka and both sons.
And finally, Rebbetzin Smiles (“Torah Tapestries”, pages 91-92) cites R’ Yaakov Kaminetsky’s question and explanation regarding Yaakov’s Test:
R’ Yaakov Kaminetsky asks (in Sefer Emes L’Yaakov) why he [Yaakov] had to lie in order to attain the Brachot, as … Yaakov Avinu’s essential midda was that of truth.
R’ Kaminetsky explains that just like Avraham Avinu had to go through ten tests to prove his closeness to Hashem Yaakov Avinu, too, had to be tested to prove his dedication.
When a person rises above his nature, performing an action that goes entirely against his being, it becomes clear that this is not an act being performed out of habit or instinct, but rather an act being done purely out of a desire to fulfill Hashem’s will. This was Yaakov Avinu’s test… Yaakov Avinu represents truth; he could not endure sheker (falsehood), and that is precisely why Hashem tested him in this way.
If Yaakov Avinu wanted the blessings, he was going to have to prove that he was worthy of them. What was the process he had to go through…? An akeida, a sacrifice of his very self; he had to go against his nature because that was what Hashem wanted of him, to act in a particular manner because Hashem told him to and not because that was the way he felt like acting. He listened to his mother and deceived his father, going against the truth that he stood for, and did it because that was Hashem’s will.
One cannot help but ponder how easily Jews can be deceived over and over and yet, over again by a “herd of sheep” (being led to slaughter) mentality into voting a certain way in national elections, or local elections for that matter, by a blindness which obscures facts, past track-records and affiliations. And so we vote for mis-perceived “golden boys”, retrospectively at our own peril. Doesn’t it seem as if we keep failing because we can’t or don’t rise above our natures or perceive Hashem’s tests?
In today’s Israel, perhaps this means that those who love and cleave to our Divine legacy of Eretz Yisrael and who love their fellow Jews as brothers ought to think and act outside-the-box and employ their wits and their backgrounds, L’Shem Shemayim, morally and ethically to best those who would do evil to them.
Unfortunately, the answers to the above questions regarding both Yitchak and Eisev, as well as how most of us are blinded to contemporary evils have yet to found. A solid L’Shem Shemayim methodology for besting, neutralizing and discrediting, at their own game, either an evil Israeli governance or individuals who cloak themselves in perceived, projected righteousness and legitimacy has yet to be struck upon. There seems to be noone so imbued with Divine wisdom as Yitzchak Avinu, Rivka Emeinu and Yaakov Avinu were. Hopefully, the time for such answers will come speedily. May our actions regarding our fellow Jews merit acquiring such Divine wisdom as necessary to humble the evil-doers.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, and the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.