Toldot – Relationships and Blessings – 5777
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Messiah. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6; 1-10
Since we have been away we have sought to follow along with the Torah Parashiot in the 5777 cycle. This week we are reading Parasha Vayietzei B’reshit 28:10 – 32:3, this covers Ya’acov’s flight from his home and his murderous brother Esav, his meeting of Rach’el and the ensuing deception of Laban and Leah, followed by the women’s ‘battle of the bulge’ and accumulation of flocks, another flight this time from Laban and a turning point for Ya’acov as he faces his ‘enemy’. There are a few things we have missed I would like to look at before we are “caught up”. This lesson will focus on Rivka and Yitsack, as well as the twins Ya’acov and Esav. I am honored to be able to share with you the little glimpses of light from a variety of lessons I absorbed these weeks. Bezrat Hashem you’ll be able to glean at least one spark which you can take with you this week and into life & your relationship with Hashem & be a blessing to you.
B’reshit 24;16 The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up.
-Remember, when the Torah uses “too many” words or “over explains” something already evident this is significant. The texts tells us Rivka was a virgin, which means no man had gone into her and then repeats that no man had had relations with her. This could be meant to highlight the great feat it was that she had remained chaste in surroundings where there were many corrupt sexual practices in connection with the pagan practices and pagan idol worship.
We are focusing on a few things, one of which is specific relationships in these texts. We need to understand Yitsach and Rivka. Who were they were as individuals with vastly differing upbringing (remember that Rivka was born into a family of deceivers), and who are they as a couple. One of the most beautiful things we read is how Rivka’s natural response to seeing Yitsach is with modesty, and how Yitsach responded to Rivka when he realizes she is very much like his beloved righteous mother when he brings her into his tent.
B’reshit 24; 63 Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. 64 Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. 65 She said to the servant, “Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?” And the servant said, “He is my master.” Then she took her veil and covered herself. 66 The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.
Yitsach was 37 when the Akeida occurs, he has trauma from it as any human being no matter how strong of faith would and then he looses his dear mother. He is 40 when he marries Rivka and all the while she has the knowledge that through their union the Abrahamic destiny will be realized.
– B’reshit 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee…
– B’reshit 24:4 But thou shalt go תֵּלֵ֑ךְ unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.
Much like Avraham she is called out (by God) to a ‘strange’ place to leave her father’s house and all that she knew. Yitsach and Rivka are a match made in heaven but the couple is barren. They are barren for 20 years! Like Avraham and Sarah they know what it means to wait on the Lord. The Torah tells us that Yitsach prays, he prays for Rivka and with Rivka. This time there will be no taking of another to bear the children of the Promise.
For Yitsach this is out of the question. He may himself have carried the ‘guilt’ of the ‘break up’ of a family, and expulsion of his brother. ( Ber.21; 9 Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. 10 Therefore she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.”) For Yitsach, Rivka was it, only Rivka…and so he prayed for her.
Bemidbar 12;11 Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned. 12 “Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb!” 13 Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!”
Luke 22; 31 Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
1 Thessalonians 5; 16 Rejoice at all times. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Ya’acov 5; 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have before Him: If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
Is there something to be said for shidduchim שִׁדּוּכִים (arranged marriages/ match making) ? On the plus side, one trusted goes forth on your behalf and there are none of the fleshly selfish hangups that one would take into the finding of their own mate. The text tells us that Yitzach marries Rivka, she becomes his wife. THEN he loves her. Can marriage come first and love grow between two people? Clearly it can.
B’reshit 24; 67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
-The Hebrew in this verse says she “fell” off the camel. It’s not a graceful dismounting, it could mean a number of things. The sages teach that she was struck with the aura of holiness which radiated from someone who had come so close to even ascending to Hashem. I heard something intriguing this week. There is a midrash which explains that Yitsach did perish on the Altar at Moriah, indeed that he was burned completely and that God resurrected him. They teach that Yitzach’s offering and resurrection is the proof of the ‘final’ resurrection.
(Something to note: The Midrash-Talmuds- Mishna,etc. were written around 1,200 years later than the extant scraps of writings from the 1st century authors were discovered.)
Romans 6; 8 Now if we have died with Messiah, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Messiah, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
B’reshit 25; 19 Now these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived.
When looking at the difficult pregnancy of Rivka, we should consider that it is taught that Ya’acov and Esav were the first ever twins. Rivka may have been uncomfortable but it was also that she was troubled by the “nature of her child”. This child within me doesn’t know who he is! There is something wrong. It is taught that there was a set “place” where there were righteous teachers. This is widely taught within Judaism to be the son of Noach Shem and his descendants who so to speak, “ran the beit midrash”. It is taught that this is where Rivka “goes” to inquire of the Lord. Then God reveals to her that she is having twins and they will become two nations. She is given the prophecy that the older will serve the younger. There are several reason’s why Rivka may not have approved of the name of Ya’acov for her son (Yad- being hand and eikev- being heel) but if it were to be said that this name connoted a “heel grabber” as in that he was trying to supplant the firstborn place, she may not have approved because she KNEW that he was destined to be the leader of their family and the Chosen progenitor to fulfill the Abrahamic destiny and receive the blessings. Perhaps this is why Rivka never refers to Ya’acov as Ya’acov. No, Rivka only ever refers to him as “my son”. Additionally it could be that she knew he would become Israel, Yisrael, and this is how she knew him.
Bereshit 25; 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.”
Something beautiful in what Rivka asks: “Why am I like this?” it is a question with such bare honest vulnerability. She is concerned with what is going on inside of her. There’s just something not right. There are two sides, one good one evil battling inside. Only when we realize that this is the case always…until we are perfected and with Him, then when we take this realization and very real concern to Him, inquiring of the Lord in earnest…. “Why am I like this?” from this place He can reveal to us what character traits we need to be working on for our tikun.
# 119 (verb) adam אָדַם – made red, died red, to be red, to sparkle. (found only in Torah in Exodus speaking of the red dyed ram skins used in the Mishkan. See: Mishlei 23;31/Yeshayahu 1;18/ Eichah 4;7/ Nahum 2;3 for an intriguing word study. )
#120 (Masc. N) Adam אָדָם- red, ruddy, man, the human race.
Bereshit 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
#122 (adj) adom אָדֹם – red, ruddy (of man, horse, heifer, garment, water, lentils), redness.
Found only twice in Torah: Bereshit 25:30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red ( lit: The red the red- Ha’adom ha’adom הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם ) pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
Bemidbar 19;2 This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke…
#127 (fem.n) adamah אֲדָמָה – earth, the ground, field, land, region, country.
Bereshit 4:10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood (plural=bloods דְּמֵי) crieth unto me from the ground הָֽאֲדָמָֽה.
#1818 (masc. n) dam דָּם – blood, bloodshed, slaughter, blood of the grape, slaying, the guilt of slaughter.
Bereshit 4;11 And now art thou cursed from the earth הָֽאֲדָמָה, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood דְּמֵי from thy hand…
#132 (adj.) admoniy אַדְמֹונִי – red, (red haired).
Bereshit 25:25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.
1Shmuel 16:12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.
1Shmuel 17:42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
On Ya’acov, the name comes from Yad- hand and Eikev- heel. It is often translated as supplanter or heel grabber. (Remember, who was it who accused Ya’acov of being a supplanter? Esav, in the context of a lie.) One of the best explanations I have heard regarding this “mistranslation” is as follows:
Bereshit 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
-The ‘perfect’ man is in the womb struggling with the man of ‘bloodshed’. Couldn’t it be that in that picture the deceiver was forcing his way, trying to thwart the prophecy and crushing the head of the “chosen son”. Perhaps Ya’acov was not grabbing the heel in order to be born first, he had already been given pride of place by God Almighty. Perhaps he was protecting his head from the ‘enemy’ who was trying to kill him.
John 8; 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me! 46 Which of you can prove Me guilty of sin? If I speak the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”…50 I do not seek My own glory. There is One who seeks it, and He is the Judge.
B’reshit 27; 41 So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
Tehillim 124 “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,” let Israel now say, “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the waters would have engulfed us,
The stream would have swept over our soul; then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.” Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
The first place we find the word Yisrael is : Gen 32:28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
#8280 (v) sarah שָׂרָה – to be leader, commander, to fight, to place in a row, to set in order.
Yisrael can be translated as “contender or soldier of God”, there is a verse about Ya’acov in Hosea which is the only other context of the root sara (yi’sra’el), and it speaks of Ya’acov. (read Hosea 11;8- all of 12).
Hosea 11;11 They will come trembling like birds from Egypt….(Charad- trembling, whose first occurrence is when Yitsach trembles. Ber. 27;23) 12 Ephriam surrounds me with lies and the house of Yisrael with deceit (mirmah-deceit, whose first occurrence is “And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.” Ber.27;35 )
* side note, to understand take away- the word lakach, God takes man and puts him in the garden to guard it, God takes one of Adam’s ribs to make woman, Adam calls her woman because she was taken from man, Enoch walked with God and God took him, Noach built an altar and took from all the clean animals.
* another side note, the root of mirmah is #7411 (verb) ramah רָמָה – to cast, throw, shoot, beguile, deceive….is found only 3 times in Torah- context!
Bereshit 29:25 So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?” [and Shemot 15;1 and 21 God “cast” the horse with its rider into the sea. ]
Hosea 12; 2 The Lord has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways; he will repay him according to his deeds. 3 In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his manhood he strove with God. 4 He strove with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor. He met God at Bethel, and there God spoke with us- ….
5 the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord is his memorial name: 6 “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”
Bereshit 25; 24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red (admoniy אַדְמֹונִי), all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.
– Esav, his name comes from redness, like dam- blood for he was a violent man. Esav’s name comes from Admah the earth for he was an earthly man much connected to the animal nature. He is called Edom which comes from the same verbal roots. This is crucial to understanding the “deception” of Yitsach and the choices made by Rivka and Ya’acov.
Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
Bereshit 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made עָשָׂה. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
# 6213 (v) asah עָשָׂה- to make, produce, labor, manufacture, fabricate, produce, create, to be made.
– The rabbi’s teach that this word Asah- done/finished is related to Esau. That he was already “all done”, that he had this attitude of instant gratification in everything. He came out as a grown man already finished, hairy. (Bereshit 25; 33 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.) Esau was so self centered it was only about the here and now. He may have said (in 35;32), “ I am going to die ”…. the word Halak- has to do with the way one walks/lives. Therefore he says I am walking to death, he could be aware that the way he is living will lead him to punishment. He knows the power of God but it is remote from him. As firstborn he will have the responsibilities which include bringing offerings to God, not only did he perhaps fear that the offerings wouldn’t be accepted but that he would be punished perhaps even deserve death for approaching the “holy” in a defiled state.
(Vayikra 10; 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.’”) Not only could it have been a fear of divine justice but the text explicitly tells us he spurns the birthright- he had absolutely no regard for the responsibilities which came along with the birthright, he did however mourn the loss of the beneficial blessings.
Bereshit 27:36 Then he said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”
Romans 9; 10 Not only that, but Rebecca’s children were conceived by one man, our father Isaac. 11 Yet before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God’s plan of election might stand, 12 not by works but by Him who calls, she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”13 So it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Absolutely not! 15 For He says to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
Malachi 1; 2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob; 3but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the LORD of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.” 5Your eyes will see this and you will say, “The LORD be magnified beyond the border of Israel!”
It is a teaching and understanding among a large number of observant Jewish believers that “Esau” is not only a physical line of people (related to the Arabs-Ishmael, Egypt, the so called “Palestinians”,etc. ), a spiritual battle within each person between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ side, but also represents the nations (those who come against Israel and who do not come to faith in the One God of Avraham). Perhaps more prevalently “Esau” is thought of as Rome, which in “their” minds relates directly to Catholicism and Christianity and thereby Pogroms, expulsions, Holocausts.
Some ‘argue’ that over time ‘Christianity’ versus Islam’s ownership of spilt blood of our Jewish brethren would plummet the bowl of the balance. This is a reality that is hard to accept, but if we desire to understand the reason for the ‘distance’ between Christians and Jew’s we should learn to see things through the lenses of History and faith. One reason the concept of Christianity as Esau seems to ‘fit’ in my mind is the fact that Esau relished and desired…even flaunted the rights of ownership of the blessings promised to Avraham BUT (as we will, bezrat Hashem, investigate) Esau spurned the responsibilities of the Covenant. In other words, and in a wide generalization…Christianity claims the right to the blessings of the God of Avraham and refuses the ‘yoke’ of Torah which comes along with it. This is one reason the movement of love, attachment, acknowledgment, and support of the Torah among believers in Yeshua is breaking believers out of this mold “Judaism” has in part placed us into. Baruch Hashem for that!
Bereshit 25; 27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.
-Ya’acov was not inferior in strength (muscle’s atrophied , skin paled from sitting in a tent all day), in comparison to Esav. (See: Bereshit 29; 8 But they said, “We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”…10 When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.) Esau wasn’t some hairy homely giant in comparison to Jacob. The terms we read here have a lot more to do with their internal and spiritual nature, personality, morality. Esav, the yodea sa’ed יֹדֵ֥עַ צַ֖יִד. Ya’acov the ish tam אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם. The Torah tells us the one quality or skill that Esav acquired that he BECAME a skilled hunter. While Ya’acov was born, he WAS tam from the start. The only other hunter tsayid we have for the usage of this word is Nimrod.
#8535 (adj) tam תָּם – whole, upright, perfect, complete.
In looking at the whole rest of the saga, with a birds eye view remember this. Right away this is the way the Torah describes Ya’acov. Truly this is the lens with which we should investigate and weigh our judgment of him.
Something beautiful about the internal burden Rivka bore, it is taught that she kept her prophecy from Yitsach. Why? Because she knew having obtained the information, the foreknowledge about the destinies of the children she would by default be prone to treating them as such. She would care for Esav as a good mother would (the garments of Esau were with her in the tent, these garments are his most prized possessions the Bechor garments, much like the special coat Ya’acov makes for Yosef- thus she was trusted by Esav to care for them.) But, in the end she saw his nature being revealed and the prophecy coming true about him. It is taught that she had hoped to spare Yitsach this foreknowledge and allow him to establish a relationship with Esav without a bias. The only problem was, Esav was Esav. The verse below expresses something awesome about Yitsach as a parent. Sometime he is criticized for being so blind to Esav’s nature and how could he even think about giving him the blessing. We will discuss that in short, bezrat Hashem.
B’reshit 25; 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (kiy tsayid b’piyv, because ‘game’ in his mouth)
#6718 (masc. n) tsayid צַיִד – prey taken in hunting, food, provision taken for a journey.
This root of tsayid gets to the heart of what the sages teach regarding Yitsach’s view on Esav.
#6679 (v) tsuwd צוּד – to lie in wait for, to catch birds, to lay snares, to furnish oneself with victuals.
Eicha 4:18 They hunted our steps so that we could not walk in our streets; our end drew near, our days were finished for our end had come.
Micah 7:2 The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; Each of them hunts the other with a net.
B’reshit 27:3 “Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me…
Here are two ways of looking at this verse. How does it explain what a wonderful parent Yitsach was? Because he looked for (needed) a reason to love Esav, it is strange to say the parent loves a child because _____.A parent doesn’t love a child because he is or isn’t anything, a parent loves his child. Yet, Esav left his parents wanting on such a level that Yitsach looked for something to love him for. He found the one thing that Esav excelled at and focused on it. He illuminated it. He strove to teach Esav to elevate his ‘gift’ for a Godly purpose. He hoped that Esav would take his destiny into the “field” and share it with the world for good.
It had, in previous years, troubled me that such a tsaddik would be so swayed by such a menial, primal need such as the consumption of food. But the verse above really doesn’t say anything about Yitsach having a taste for anything, it’s not food in his mouth with “makes him love” Esav. In fact it could just as easily be read from the Hebrew that Yitsach loved Esav because (having been ‘blinded’ by his schemes to impress him or give him a false impression of Esav’s true self) trapping was in his (Esav’s ) mouth. So, another view is taught that the term game who’s root can mean trapping or laying snares explains that Esau was excellent at trapping his father, thus he often sought to impress his father on superficial levels thinking it would suffice or even impress when in the end the internalization, the heart of the matters of their home were totally out of his range of focus. For example, he thinks he will please his father by marrying at the same age as he did. But…he marries foreign women, two of them, and there is great strife in the home because of it.
B’reshit 26; 34 When Esau was forty years old he married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35 and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.
B’reshit 25; 29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom.
# 2729 (verb) Charad חָרֵד – to tremble, to terrify, to make afraid, to be frightened.
B’reshit 27:33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.”
B’reshit 42:28 Then he said to his brothers, “My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack.” And their hearts sank, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”
In past years I had been concerned about my (incomplete and temporary) conclusions regarding Yitsach’s compliance in his own ‘deception’. This helped me to realize that the trembling he did was not in horror, or dismay. It was in an awesome tremor at what God had accomplished and orchestrated.
The fact that his trembling is the first ever in Torah followed by the brother’s of Yosef who acknowledged that God’s hand was working in “paying back” their deception of their father and usurpation of their brother’s favored position, along with the other contexts of Charad in which there was the trembling camp and even trembling mountain upon God’s giving of the Torah at Sinai…this helps me understand the nature of Yitsach’s reaction.
B’reshit 27; 1 Now it came about, when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 2 Isaac said, “Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; 4 and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die.” 5 Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, 7 ‘Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you. 9 Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves. 10 Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.” 11 Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.” 13 But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.”
A few things to note before moving on:
– Yitsach calls Esav and says “ I do not know the day of my death…”, Esav mentioned he was walking into death, and Rivka later said to Isaac, “I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?” There seems to be this common theme of presumed foreknowledge regarding mortality. The reality is that Yitsach lived much longer than he may have thought, Esav continues to vex his parents and walk in a violent path, and Rivka is an a way the bearer due the strife caused by the ‘deception’ of Yitsach because… she is unable to have her beloved son dwell with her.
-The text says Rivka overheard while Yitsach was talking with Esav. I have a bit of a problem with the typically portrayed image of Rivka sneaking around a tent flap, just so happening to be in the right place at the right time to hear Yitsach telling Esav to go fetch the game. I think it was much more likely that Rivka was in her husbands tent at the time of this conversation. I believe that it was made out in the open and this could change our thoughts about Yitsach’s involvement with his own ‘deception’.
-I believe Rivka is taking the approach which she always has. Proactive (filling the troughs for 10 camels, running two and from her house to serve the stranger, going to inquire of the Lord, “If so why am I thus?”, etc.) So often the concept of I am going to sit back and wait, going to let everything happen for me, it’s all been done for me, there are no works which will effect my eternal destiny….is the attitude among believers. It is finished and accomplished, but are we really meant to just let be what is?
-I think Rivka’s decision to have Ya’acov come into the tent and have Yitsach bless him was just one example, of (let us just think of it from a different perspective) the active approach to faith, there the Tsaddik truly believes that this is what God wills them to do to be a part of the realization of what He had spoken to each one of them. I personally believe that both she and Yitsach were in favor of this outcome and I think they were deeply involved in it together behind the scenes.
-The other two examples that come to mind regarding this active approach is Sarah with Avraham, perhaps she truly believed that through Hagar’s children to Avraham the promises he was given would be realized. For the 3rd example see: And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it? Bereshit 15; 7-8 Avraham is not doubting God, he is talking strategy. How is this going to go down. He knows he has been given Cana’an, Avraham refers to procedure.
-Why was it that Yitsach doesn’t notice the difference between the herd and wild game? Why doesn’t he notice the difference between Esav and Rivka’s cooking? Does he truly not differentiate between sheepskin and human hair (however thick)? Esau would never have begun with “Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.” It is after Ya’acov acknowledges God that Yitsach asks to “check” and see if he was Esav, Esav would not have acknowledged God- and I think, he knew that. “Because the Lord your God caused it to happen to me.” Why does he ask him so many times “are you sure you’re Esav?”
#4303 (masc. n) mat’am מַטְעָם – savory or seasoned food.
[ This word is found only in our current context – Bereshit 27 and one other place in Tanakh….it’s context is fascinating considering where Ya’a’cov is coming from and where he is going (to whom he is going).]
Mishlei 23; 1 When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat ff you are a man of great appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food. 4 Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. 5 When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. 6 Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; 7 for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you….22 Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. 23 Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding.24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. 25 Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you. 26 Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.
Let us focus in on the blessings in this section. There is a blessing Yitsach gives Ya’acov when he thinks he is Esav, there’s a blessing Yitsach gives Esav when he knows that he’s Esav and there’s a blessing Yitsach gives Ya’acov when he knows he is Ya’acov.
-The blessing Yitsach gives Ya’acov when he ‘thinks he is Esav’ – Bereshit 27; 28 Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine; 29 May peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.”
-The blessing Yitsach gives Esav when he knows that he’s Esav – Bereshit 27; 39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him, “Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your… …dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. 40 “By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck.”
#6677 (masc N) tsavar צַוָּאר – neck, the back of the neck.
Fascinatingly enough, I think the first 3 occurrences (of only 7 in Torah) of our term gives us a clue as to what Yitsach is saying to Esav, and I do not believe it indicates the sense ‘I know he will oppress you’, or anything else negative about Ya’acov. I think it is indicating that Yitsach knows his son Esav will be embittered by this circumstance, and that the very site the skins were used to placed upon the back of Ya’acov’s neck in order to part them as brothers….so too at that same site there will be a level of reconciliation one day.
Bereshit 27:16 And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.
Bereshit 33:4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
– The blessing Yitsach gives Ya’acov when he knows he is Ya’acov- Bereshit 28;3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.”
*This to me is most telling. I believe that Yitsach didn’t intend to bless Esav with the Covenant. I don’t know when he decided not to, I do have some verified clues as to why, but if you read the blessing ‘intended’ for Esav it says nothing about the deed to the Land of Israel. I think he never intended to give Esav the Land of Israel or the blessings of Avraham as an inheritance. I think he intended that the torch bearer be the one who was proven to be moral, strong and willing enough to carry it. Ya’acov. I think that the Torah itself verifies this (at least in part) because the very next thing we read after Ya’acov receives this blessing is the following:
Bereshit 29; 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
I am not trying to excuse any form of deceptive tactics. We KNOW that Ya’acov reaped an abundance of toil and deceit. I also know God knows what was intended in this whole situation. I do believe God is a God of Truth and that no one can stand before Him who is a liar. I do not wish to rewrite History but I do pray that some of these points are thought-provoking. God does not contradict Himself,nothing He says in vain, therefore read the following with Ya’acov in mind:
Tehillim 24; 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face— Jacob.
May you be blessed with all the goodness from above, may you be filled by this time spent in His wondrous word. May each one of us have the strength to ask “why am I thus” and change a character trait that He desires to refine. May it be intriguing when we see things with different perspectives, especially when our searching is led by His Holy Spirit. May you be warmed from the inside out on these cold nights, and bask in His presence at this and every hour.
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