(Torah Portion Toldos) Truth Be Told!
The Torah relates that when our matriarch Rivka was expecting, she became bewildered because when she passed the house of Torah study headed by the Sage Aiver she felt her baby kicking as if it wanted to get out and when she passed a place of idol worship she also felt her baby kicking as if it wanted to leave. Fearing that she was bearing a confused child, she went to seek counsel from Aiver, who was a prophet. Aiver explained to Rivka that she was expecting twins who would go their separate ways and would eventually lead two distinct nations.
Our Sages explain that already in utero, Aisav and Yaacov were in discussion, negotiating their future positions. Aisav wanted to live the ‘good life’ while Yaacov opted to live a spiritual life so that he could reap the ultimate and eternal rewards in the World to Come.
It would seem from their discussions that Yaacov was fit to become the next link in the patriarchal line.
However, the determining factor as to who was destined to be the link to Avraham and Yitzchok’s legacy was dependant on who was the first born. Aisav emerged first, but already at birth one was able to tell that Yaacov wished to be first because the Torah tells us that he was holding onto the heel of Aisav’s foot.
The name Yaacov, which means heel, was given to the second baby because of its unusual act of holding on to his brother’s heel.
Perhaps, Yaacov’s holding on to the heel of Aisav was his way of displaying that in the event that Aisav would give up and sell the firstborn right, it would be appropriate for Yaacov, because by holding on to Aisav’s foot he linked himself to Aisav and was a physical extension of the firstborn entitlement.
When they were fifteen years old, on the same day of their grandfather Avraham’s funeral, the Torah tells us that Aisav sold his firstborn rights to Yaacov for a simple bowl of soup. This sale entitled Yaacov to receive the patriarchal blessings from his father Yitzchok. Aisav felt that the moral, ethical, spiritual and leadership responsibilities were too much for him to handle, and transferred them to Yaacov.
From this point on, it was no secret that Aisav was living a murderous, adulterous, idolatrous and shady lifestyle.
The Torah describes that Yitzchok was legally blind. He was unaware that Aisav sold the firstborn right to Yaacov and was also unaware of the extent of Aisav’s wayward ways. The Talmud relates that when Aisav was around his father, he was second to none in his perfection and attention to the Mitzvah of honoring his father. It was for this reason Aisav was able to fool his father about his abhorrent behavior.
Aisav was basically a two faced individual. Commentators point out that in the Torah there is an apparent redundancy: Aisav is called – a man who knew how to hunt and a man of the field. They explain that the Torah is capturing Aisav’s unpredictable dual personality – at times Aisav presented himself as a decent and civilized man depicted by a man of the field and then there were often times when he was a man who hunted – using his conniving skills to hunt people down.
Conversely, the Torah calls Yaacov a man who sat and studied – he was the same predictable honest person in every possible setting. There were no surprises with Yaacov’s personality; it was a reflection of his diligence and spiritual connectivity to G-d.
When Yitzchok was ready to pass on the patriarchal blessings, he assumed that Aisav was the one fit to receive it and asked him to prepare delicacies in honor of the event.
The Torah relates that Rivka who was aware of Aisav’s flawed character and knew that he sold the birthright to Yaacov, prepared the delicacies herself and set Yaacov up to take the place of his brother Aisav and receive the blessings.
Immediately after Yitzchok conferred the blessings to Yaacov, Aisav arrived, and in no time Yitzchok realized that Yaacov had rightfully received them.
Because Aisav was outsmarted by his brother Yaacov, Aisav made up his mind to kill Yaacov at a later date. This issue and grudge that Aisav had against Yaacov was passed down to his descendants and to this very day is apparent through acts of violence towards us and numerous expressions of anti-Semitism.
Our Sages tell us that each of our forefathers excelled in a particular trait. Avraham was the master of Chesed – kindness, Yitzchok was the epitome of service and prayer to G-d, and Yaacov personified the ideals of Torah and truth.
We are fortunate to have inherited all these amazing qualities through the spiritual DNA of our forefathers. We all have the capacity to tap into these qualities and reach remarkable levels of achievement, perfection and blessings in all aspects of life!
Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos
Rabbi Dovid Saks