A Thought for Shabbat
A Thought for Shabbat
A classic of all classic questions on Chumash is, how could Yitzchak be fooled by the clearly evil Eisav, and Favor him over the righteous Ya’akov? There are many explanations for this. However, one explanation in particular answers a lot of questions, especially the one about what Yitzchak saw in Eisav in the first place.
First of all, it is important to point out that Eisav, no matter what anyone thought of him, was the bechor (firstborn son). As such, he was entitled to all the benefits of the bechor, and Yitzchak, as his father, was obligated to provide them. According to the strict din (law), which is what Yitzchak best related to (as opposed to chessed, which was the trait of his father, Avraham), Eisav was the bechor, and to ignore that physical reality would have been a denial of the Divine Providence that arranged it that way.
No, as Yitzchak saw it, G-d had known what He was doing when He made Eisav the bechor; who was he to interfere with that process? True belief in the providence of G-d would dictate that Yitzchak act responsibly and bless Eisav, in spite of what his inner feelings were screaming out. If halacha (Jewish law) mandates an “unpleasant” course of action, it must be carried out, with the belief that G-d will work out the details on His own.
Not so for Rivka. As the mother of the bechor, she had no halachic obligation to make sure that Eisav received the blessings. As a matriarch, it was her job to assure the spiritual purity of the future Jewish people. That’s why for her, it was not a violation of trust in Divine Providence to scheme and send Ya’akov in for the blessings in place of Eisav. On the contrary! In concert with Yitzchak’s obedience, Divine Providence worked through her to arrange that Ya’akov usurp the right of the firstborn son, without Yitzchak having to deviate from the halacha one bit!
It is a wonderful lesson to integrate, and it teaches us how to use faith and trust in G-d’s master plan to work with Divine Providence, as opposed to against it. Many people read the occurrences of history with a jaundiced eye, mistrusting G-d’s judgment in what happens in their personal life, and the life of the nation. They feel the need to “override” G-d’s authority, and tinker with Jewish law to make it more “compatible” with current circumstances.
However, halacha is halacha, meaning, that situations come and go, but Torah law is eternal. As the Talmud points out (Kesuvos 3a), even rabbinical laws take precedence over life-threatening edicts of oppressing nations, for, the latter are temporal, but the former express eternal truths.
In the end, both Yitzchak and Rivka had been right. Yitzchak had worked with the Divine Providence and carried out his responsibility of blessing the firstborn with deviation. Rivka had arranged that Ya’akov receive the brocha in place of Eisav. In the end, G-d worked it that Rivka was successful, and Yitzchak blessed the truth firstborn (whom, the midrash says, had been conceived first). Yitzchak could take pleasure in the fact that he had trusted G-d to the end. Rivka could take pleasure from the fact that Ya’akov received the brocha due to him. And the two of them could take pleasure in knowing they had done G-d’s will, and that Jewish history was well on its way, along its long journey to national fulfilment.
Rabbi Pinchas Winston