The Torah’s description of the essence of Yacov and Eisav does not recount their deeds and actions, such as Yacov being constantly involved in learning or that Eisav was a fearless hunter. Instead, the Torah describes Yacov as being a “yosheiv oholim (lived in Torah tents)” and Eisav as an “ish yodeah tsayid, ish sodeh (a man who knew trapping, a man of the field)” (Toldot 25, 27). Why does the Torah choose to describe them in such general terms rather than detailing their actions?
Before explaining this seeming lack of a sufficient portrayal of Yacov and Eisav, we must know the meaning of these terms. Yonatan ben Uziel explains that “yosheiv oholim” means that Yacov constantly sought Torah and that “ish yodeah tsayid, ish sodeh” means that Eisav was idle. Although these words do not provide us with a portrait of the many accomplishments of Yacov and the deficient actions of Eisav, they are a window into their very core.
Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz zt”l, the mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva, expounds this idea in the following manner. By informing us that Yacov constantly sought Torah, the Torah is relaying to us the cause of Yacov’s actions. Yacov’s constant search for knowledge of Torah was the cause for the outstanding way of life that Yacov lived.
Eisav, on the other hand, did not evolve into a rasha (evil one) because he chose the life of a hunter. His travels down the “wrong path” are a result of his idleness. Not only was Eisav not interested in acquiring Torah knowledge, he explicitly sought out a life of emptiness. Hunting and physical desires were not the root of Eisav’s evil. His nature of “hangin’ around” was the source of Eisav’s delinquent actions.
When one is confronted with a problem in his personal way of life, Reb Yeruchom advises that he should always search for the source which caused it. If one has not aspired to G-dliness and spiritual growth, then the “proper path” definitely has become blurred, eventually leading him on to the “wrong path.”
“So he (Yitzchok) drew close and kissed him (Yacov)ЕЕand blessed him; he said, ‘ЕЕ. may Hashem give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fatness of the earth’ ” (Toldot 27, 27-28).
This particular blessing that Yitzchok bestowed upon Yacov does not appear to be unique to Yacov. It seems that Eisav received the exact same blessing, as the Torah states, “So Yitzchok his father answered, and said (to Eisav), ‘Behold, of the fatness of the earth shall be your dwelling and of the dew of the heavens from above’ ” (Toldot 27, 39). Why would Yitzchok bless Yacov and Eisav with the same brocho?
The Chofetz Chaim explains that although both blessings deal with physical abundance, the manner in which the blessings will be granted, differ greatly. By mentioning “the dew of the heavens” before “the fatness of the earth” in the blessing of Yacov, Yitzchok is expressing that the blessing for physical abundance is contingent on proper spiritual behavior. Therefore, Yacov and his descendants will only be granted the blessing of material wealth if they properly serve Hashem. Failure to adhere to Hashem’s commandments will result in Yacov’s blessing of wealth not being fulfilled.
On the other hand, the blessing for physical wealth that Yitzchok gave Eisav is in reverse order, since it mentions “the fatness of the earth” prior to “the dew of the heavens.” This indicates that Eisav’s blessing for physical wealth is not dependent on his service to Hashem. Eisav and his descendants will be blessed with material success regardless of whether they will comply with Hashem’s dictates.
However, it is difficult to understand why Yitzchok made material success contingent upon the fulfillment of the spiritual, since Yitzchok, at that moment, thought that he was actually blessing Eisav?
Yitzchok thought that if Eisav would be rewarded with physical wealth for proper service of Hashem, it would provide the impetus for Eisav to travel the “proper path” and fulfill his potential. This is consistent with the Rishonim who are of the opinion that Yitzchok’s desire to give Eisav the blessing was borne out of hope that Eisav would do teshuva. Yitzchok knew that Eisav’s potential to reach higher levels in spirituality were within his power, and Yitzchok wanted to explore all avenues in assisting Eisav to reach that goal.
However, once Yitzchok realized that Eisav would not become the person that he had hoped for and envisioned, Yitzchok altered the blessing for Eisav. He no longer conditioned that the physical be based on the spiritual, since he knew quite well that Eisav would never be able to fulfill this condition.
BEYOND “BY EXAMPLE”:
“V’Aileh Toldot Yitzchak Ben Avraham, Avraham Holid Ess Yitzchak”
These are the children of Yitzchak (Isaac) the son of Avraham (Abraham), Avraham begat Yitzchak.
The words “Avrohom, begat Yitzchak” seem redundant because the verse already stated that Yitzchak was the son of Avraham. Rabbi Moshe Feinstien (of blessed memory) explains the separate meanings of the phrases “the son of Avraham” and “Avraham begat Yitzchak”
Avraham was the paragon of righteousness and Yitzchak loyally followed his example. This is alluded to by the words “the son of Avraham”. Yitzchak was a son who embraced his father’s example.
However, his development was not left to chance. Avraham took an active role in Yitzchak’s spiritual growth. This is what the verse indicates with the words “Avraham begat Yitzchak.” Avraham not only set an example for Yitzchak but provided him with proper guidance as well.
Good role models are essential for a child, but without proper guidance there is no assurance that he will emulate them.
“Vayomer Eisav Ell Yaakov Haaliteni Na Min Ha’adom Ha’adom Hazeh Ki Oyef Anochi etc.”
And Eisav (Esau) said to Yaakov “Pour down my throat of this red stuff please, because I am weary.”
The Bais Halevi explains these verses as follows.
Although Avraham had passed away that day, Eisav didn’t want to be bothered with mourning. Nevertheless, he was ashamed to appear apathetic about Avraham’s passing while he enjoyed his meal. He decided to pretend to be unaware of Avraham’s passing until he finished eating.
The food that aroused Eisav’s appetite was a porridge made of lentils; a dish traditionally prepared for mourners. Eisav referred to it as “that red stuff” as if he didn’t realize what kind of food it was. He could thus feign ignorance about the cause for the family’s mourning. At his first spoonful, however, he would be forced to acknowledge that he was eating a mourner’s dish. To avoid being faced by unwelcome hints of Avraham’s passing, he asked that the food be poured down his throat. He pretended that he was doing so because “I am weary ” i.e. I don’t have strength to feed myself.
(Rashi comments that throat-stuffing is the way camels are fed. By eating in such a manner, Eisav was able to close his eyes to the food and what it represented. He could then enjoy himself without a twinge of guilt. It is an important lesson to see how a man can lower himself to the level of animals in his quest for pleasure without guilt.)
Based on Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #103
“These are the chronicles of Yitzchak son of Avraham. Avraham begot Yitzchak.” (Genesis 25:19)
Rashi has a problem with this verse. It’s obvious that since “Yitzchak [is the] son of Avraham” that “Avraham begot Yitzchak.” So why the repetition?
Rashi answers that the repetition is necessary because the cynics of the time said, “All those years Sarah never had a baby from Avraham and now after she was with Avimelekh she has a baby. You tell me who’s the father?!” Therefore God made Yitzchak look identical to Avraham, so that it was quite evident that Avraham Avinu (our patriarch Avraham) was Yitzchak Avinu’s father.
There is a difficulty with this Rashi, or rather, with the cynics. Fourteen years before Yitzchak Avinu was born, Avraham Avinu had a son Yishmael (Ishmael). How could the cynics have had any doubt about Avraham Avinu’s ability to father a child?
One answer comes from this section of Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom:
It’s better to be “a fool who believes everything” (Proverbs 14:15)—even nonsense and lies—because then you will end up believing in the truth as well. Someone who is a wise guy and skeptical, even though he won’t believe any nonsense or lies, ends up being a cynic and denying everything, even the truth, God forbid. “Better that I should be called a fool my entire life than be wicked in God’s eyes even for a moment” (Eiduyot 5:6).
Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #103
The cynics, because they were cynics, ended up denying the truth that Avraham Avinu was able to father a child.
What is a cynic? “A faultfinding captious critic…distrustful of human nature” says the Merriam-Webster dictionary. (The definition of “captious” is “1: marked by an often ill-natured inclination to stress faults and raise objections 2: calculated to confuse, entrap or entangle in argument”.)
Esav, Yaakov Avinu’s twin brother, was a first-class cynic. He distrusted people so that when he questioned them, he ignored their protestations of innocence and entrapped them so that they would “confess” their crimes. The Midrash gives the following example: “I didn’t kill anybody.” “Who was your accomplice? What weapon did you use” (Bereishis Rabbah 63:10, Devarim Rabbah 1:17)?
Esav found fault with the way God treated His servants. When Esav came home from a hunt he found Yaakov Avinu (our patriarch Yaakov) simmering a stew. Esav asked him, “What’s this for?” “Grandfather died.” “After all the kindness and good he did, he died?! Then there is neither reward nor resurrection” (Genesis 25:29; Bereishis Rabbah 63:10)!
Esav was cynical about the birthright. When Yaakov Avinu asked Esav to sell him the birthright, Esav answered, “I’m about to die! What do I need a birthright for” (Genesis 25:32)?! (See Rashi, Ramban and Or HaChaim for what sort death Esav anticipated.) Esav brought a group of his friends with him to eat. They said, “Let’s go eat Yaakov’s food and have a good laugh at him” (Bereishis Rabbah 63:14). After he finished eating, “he got up and left. Esav despised the birthright” (Genesis 25:34).
Even when Esav went hunting to bring Yitzchak Avinu food (in order to receive the blessing) he remained cynical. Despite his father’s request to bring him honestly earned food (Rashi on Genesis 27:4) Esav set out to bring something back “by hook or by crook” (Rashi ibid. v.5). When he failed to trap anything, Esav brought a delicacy as his fathered had requested—dog meat (vv. 4 and 31; Targum Yonatan 27:31). (The word cynic is derived from the Greek kyon, which means dog.)
Be careful. Be cautious. Don’t be cynical.
Pearls of Life
The Pearls of Life brings the verse 25:31 in Toldottelling us that Yaakov said, “Sell as the day, your birthright to me.” The Likutey Moharan explains one must always seek the hidden wisdom in every thing in order to find the Godliness within it. Doing so constitutes true wisdom, which is compared to sunlight, a light that illuminates a person’s path so that he may know the way to travel. As the verse states: “ A man’s wisdom illuminates his face” (Ecclesiastes 8:1). Indeed, “Wisdom gives life” [ibid.,7:12]. One who does not seek the Godliness in everything has closed his mind to wisdom and to life. And whether or not a person applies his mind to this wisdom represents the principal battle between his good and evil inclinations. When we seek the spiritual root within everything and study Torah, as Yaakov did, we draw close to Hashem.
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim
Edit and compiled as heard by my Torah Masters