Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”
Parshas Toldos 2017/5778
“ויאהב יצחק את עשו כי ציד בפיו ורבקה אוהבת את יעקב” (בראשית כה:כח)
“And Yitzchok loved Eisav because he had trappings in his mouth and Rivka loves Yaakov” (Bereishis 25:28)
At first glance it would appear that we are confronted here with a difference of opinion between Yitzchok and Rivka, where Yitzchok favored Eisav and Rivka favored Yaakov. However, it is not possible to say this for the previous posuk clearly states the negative traits and actions of Eisav and the positive ones of Yaakov making it clear to all that Yaakov was the tzadik/the righteous son and Eisav the evil son.
Accordingly, we need to ascertain what the Torah meant by stating “ויאהב יצחק את עשו” / “And Yitzchok loved Eisav”!?
We can suggest, with G-d’s help, that Yitzchok’s love for Eisav is expressed in the future tense to teach us that he showed him “love” by giving him tools and warmth in hope of his returning to the way of Torah in the future. This is the true definition of love – to give, as the posuk states “ואהבת את ה’ אלקיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך” / “And you shall love the Lor-d your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might/material possessions” (Devorim 6:5). That is, true love is giving, in this case giving one’s complete heart, soul, etc. to Hashem. So too here, Yitzchok gave all that he could in order to help Eisav return to the righteous path! But certainly, just as Rivka loved Yaakov, so too Yitzchok loved Yaakov, as he was already a blossoming Torah scholar and an extremely righteous person! In this vein explains the Radak that Yitzchok loved Yaakov even more than he loved Eisav!
We find similarly, that although Hashem told Avraham that he would be blessed with a child from his wife Sarah, he immediately retorted saying “לו ישמעאל יחיה לפניך” / “may it be that Yishmael would live before You” (Bereishis 17:8), with the fear of G-d (Rashi). From this it appears that Avraham as Yitzchok searched for ways to return Yishmael to the path of Torah. And it would make sense for Avraham to do this, for the Torah tells us that Avraham sought to influence strangers to believe in G-d and to follow the Torah way of life as it states “ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן” / “and the souls they made in Charan” (ibid. 12:5), therefore certainly he would have made a serious effort to bring his own son back to the Torah way of life!
This idea that Yitzchok’s love for Eisav was in order to bring him back to the Torah way of life can be understood as well by the fact that the Torah gave a reason for this show of love, as it states כי ציד בפיו” / “because he had trappings in his mouth” whereas regarding Rivka’s love for Yaakov it is written “ורבקה אוהבת את יעקב” / “and Rivka loves Yaakov” expressing an unconditional and continuous love.
Now, the reason given for Yitzchok’s love for Eisav is “that he had trappings in his mouth”. This can be understood as follows: that Eisav had the ability not only to make his own livelihood but to help others with their livelihood as well – to put food in the “mouths of others”. Yitzchok saw this to be a great ability, and through using this ability for the good, Eisav could assume the role of Zevulun to supply Yaakov, who sat all day in the tent of Torah, with all his physical needs, allowing to learn Torah without interruption. In this manner, although Eisav was not personally involved in Torah learning, he would receive a share of Yaakov’s learning. This double portion of reward is hinted to in the wording “ויעקב איש תם יושב אהלים” / “and Yaakov was a pure person sitting in the tents”. “Tents” is written in the plural, suggesting one tent for Yaakov and one for Eisav who supports him!
Even though Yitzchok saw that Eisav was presently far from fulfilling this role of supporting Yaakov, and in addition, he knew that he had committed grave sins, nevertheless, Yitzchok felt that he could influence Eisav to return to the straight path! If you’ll say that the odds are extremely low that a person as evil as Eisav would repent, since we are dealing with a case of the life and death of Eisav’s soul, it would appear that the odds in our case are of no relevance. In addition, Yitzchok certainly davened for Eisav and we know that tefila has the power to overturn worlds as happened in the very birth of Eisav and Yaakov as stated in the beginning of this parsha, increasing the possibility of Eisav’s return to the path of good!
The Sifsei Cohen explains that it is not possible to read the posuk in its simple reading that Eisav “trapped” Yaakov with his words, for Yitzchok had prophetic wisdom and Eisav would not have been able to trap him! (Adds the Shaarei Orah [the fifth gate, the sixth sefira] my son, don’t let your mind fool you and don’t be influenced to believe that a completely righteous person such as Yitzchok would falter even in the smallest matter [and certainly not here where we are dealing with the obviously wicked behavior of Eisav], as all his actions were carefully weighed on the scales of exact truth and justice before Hashem!)
Rather he explains that the expression “כי ציד בפיו” / “for there were trappings in his mouth” means just the opposite, that Yitzchok laid a trap for Eisav! How so? He would speak to him in a soft tone in order to bring him close to him and to the Torah way of life. For example, he wouldn’t call him by his name but would say, please come here “my son”, as though he regarded him as his beloved son. And so when Yaakov first approached Yitzchok, Yitzchok, thinking it was Eisav, responded “who are you my son?” This teaches us that the love Yitzchok showed Eisav was not a true love but a means of getting Eisav to rethink his ways and return to the path of the Torah.
Alternatively, the Sifsei Cohen suggests that Yitzchok outwardly showed great love towards Eisav in order to create jealousy between the brothers in order to create a distance between them, keeping Yaakov from away from Eisav! According to this, Yitzchok’s outward sign of love toward Eisav was exclusively for Yaakov’s benefit!
The Targum Yonason adds a new dimension to this story. He says that Yitzchok loved Eisav because of the deceitfulness he had in his mouth! Can this be true!? Could deceitfulness be a virtue that would attract the love of Yitzchok!? What then can be the intention of the Targum!?
We can explain the words of the Targum as follows, with G-d’s help: Yitzchok saw that Eisav possessed a very powerful character trait – the ability to deceive! Is this a good trait!? Usually not! If it’s used to deceive G-d or to deceive people it is a terrible trait, but if it can be bridled and used in order to deceive the evil inclination, then it turns into a good trait – an excellent one! This is because the evil inclination constantly clings to a person, eyeing the moment it can bring him to sin. Now most, if not all people, cannot face the evil inclination straight on and tell him to get lost! Rather the only way a person can avoid falling in the traps of the evil inclination is to deceive him. In this way, he uses the evil inclination’s own medicine and this should serve to negate his attempts to cause the person to sin!
Alternatively, we can explain that Yitzchok saw prophetically that Yaakov was destined to have to face extremely difficult tests in Charan at the hands of the greatest deceiver of all time – Lavan Haarami! And Yitzchok understood that in Yaakov’s present state as an “איש תם” / “a pure and honest person” that he would not be able to stand up to the deceitfulness of Lavan and therefore it was necessary for Yaakov to get a taste of deceitfulness before he went to Charan.
This can be compared with present-day vaccinations where a person is injected with a small dose of the disease the vaccination is created to guard against. In this manner, if the disease attacks the person, the sampling his body contains will reject the attack. So too here, Yitzchok’s goal was to inject Yaakov with a small dose of deceitfulness delivered by Eisav so that when he was faced with a major attack of deceitfulness at the hands of Lavan, he would have the wherewithal to reject it!
For this reason, Yitzchok kept Eisav close to him, not for Eisav’s benefit and not because he thought he could change Eisav for the better as was suggested above, but in order to reduce the severity of Eisav’s deceitfulness in the surroundings of Yaakov and in this way help prepare Yaakov for his future challenges at the hands of Lavan!
According to the above, we can understand that Rivka had a similar intention when she instructed Yaakov to deceive his father and steal the blessings from Eisav, for by acting out a scenario of deceitful behavior Yaakov would have the taste of deceitfulness in his mouth which serve as a vaccine against the deceitfulness of Lavan.
In both cases, Yaakov was presented with a controlled dose of deceitfulness so that if confronted by it in the future he would not be affected by it. The above is similar to that which the sages have said that a Torah scholar should hold within him one-sixty fourth of pride (Sota 5a) and this in order to be aware of this bad trait and be able to reject the yetzer hora of pride and haughtiness when it attempts to defile or diminish his humility.
According to the above, we come to the amazing realization that Yaakov and Rivka did not act in contradiction of one another, but the very opposite – they had exactly the same intention – to prepare Yaakov for his confrontation with Lavan!
Have a nice Shabbos!