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Vol. 20 No. 6
The Two Goats - Rivkah's Wisdom
(Adapted from the Beis Halevi)
"Go now to the flock, and fetch me from there two good (choice) kid-goats and I will prepare them as delicacies for your father the way he likes them" (27:9).
Commenting on "the two good kid-goats", the Medrash explains 'good for you' (because it is through them that you will attain the B'rachos); good for your children (who will achieve atonement through them on Yom Kipur, one for Hashem and one for Az'azel).
One needs to understand a number of things, says the Beis Halevi. Firstly, the connection between the two goats and the B'rachos. Secondly, why not only Rivkah went to so much trouble to obtain the B'rachos for her son Ya'akov, but why G-d Himself intervened a number of times to ensure that her efforts would succeed. Bear in mind that the disputed B'rachos were totally material ('the fat of the land, corn and wine, power'). They belonged to this world and were tailor-made to suit Eisav, for whom they were originally intended. What did Rivkah have in mind when she set out to obtain them for her son Ya'akov, over and above the B'rachos that Yitzchak was destined to give Ya'akov before he left for Charan ('children, a great nation, Eretz Yisrael') that were far more appropriate for Ya'akov than the current ones?
More difficult still; we know that even after Rivkah succeeded in obtaining the B'rachos for Ya'akov, it is Eisav who enjoys this world with all the goodness that it contains, and not Ya'akov! Y'a'akov's children benefit minimally from it, indicating that all Rivkah's efforts were in vain!
It is clear from the Parshah that, despite Rivkah's entreaties, Ya'akov was most reluctant to follow her instructions. The simple reason for this is because it went against everything that Ya'akov (whose chief Midah was Emes) stood for, to lie and to cheat. But, the author maintains, there was more to it than that. There are occasions when the truth needs to be compromised (see Parshah Pearls 'Eisav Despised the Birthright'), and this was one of them.
It therefore seems that Yitzchak Avinu had in mind to give two sets of B'rachos - one material, which he intended to give to Eisav, the other, spiritual, which he reserved for Ya'akov. Clearly, Yitzchak may not have known the extent of Eisav's evil characteristics, but there is no doubt that he was well aware of the spiritual divide between his two sons, as is evident from his statement "the voice is the voice of Ya'akov, whereas the hands are the hands of Eisav!" (See Rashi there, Pasuk 21 & 22).
Presumably he thought that Eisav would provide Ya'akov with his needs (perhaps along the same lines as the partnership of Yisachar and Zevulun).
Ya'akov, not particularly interested in the pleasures of this world, and knowing the dangers of indulging in materialism ("and you will become proud and you will forget .Hashem …"), was quite satisfied with this arrangement, and was even willing to convince his mother to leave things as they were. Hence his statement "Behold my brother Eisav is a hairy man whereas I am smooth". The Medrash explains this to mean that whereas Eisav was a worldly man, Ya'akov was 'Cheilek (the same letters as "cholok") Elokah mi'Ma'al' (the portion of G-d above), who has no interest in this world. Moreover, Yitzchak and Ya'akov were fully aware of the maxim cited by the Gemara in Chagigah, (Daf 9) 'Poverty suits Yisrael like a red strap on a white horse!' (as it purifies them and brings them closer to the service of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu).
Rivkah knew all this too. Some commentaries explain that in her farsightedness, she realized that if Yitzchak had his way, Eisav would gladly take possession of this world, and proceed to withhold every last scrap of bread from his brother Ya'akov, leaving him to starve to death.
The Beis Halevi explains Rivkah's reservations differently. To be sure, Rivkah agreed wholeheartedly with Yitzchak and Ya'akov that the pleasures of this world were not for Ya'akov, and all things being equal, this world was suited to Eisav.
What she wanted was that Ya'akov should be master of this world, and that Eisav should enjoy the multiple pleasures of the world that belonged to Ya'akov and that Ya'akov built (both physically and by virtue of his merits). And this is hinted in the Pasuk that we cited earlier: "The voice is the voice of Ya'akov …"- 'Ya'akov builds the world with his words of Torah and Tefilah, whilst Eisav takes (with his hands) all the benefits from it.
If this world were to belong to Eisav, Rivkah figured, Yisrael would gain nothing from the fact that Eisev took all the benefits from it whilst they were given nothing.
But now that the world belonged to Ya'akov, and Eisav took it all for himself, denying Yisrael all rights to what was rightfully theirs, this wanton theft would detract from their sins - and Rivkah certainly knew that her children would sin, from the B'ris bein ha'Besarim, where G-d specifically informed Avraham that they would. Yes, when Yisrael would see "their ox being slaughtered before their eyes" and their enemies devouring all the goodness that was theirs, this would serve as a great atonement for their sins, as indeed, the Gemara states in Bava Basra (Daf 10).
The Beis Halevi continues : If somebody makes a Neder not to benefit from his property, he nevertheless retains ownership of that property in two ways;
1. He is permitted to use it in order to perform a Mitzvah - as the Gemara says in Rosh Hashanah (Daf 28) that someone who vows not to benefit from a Shofar, is permitted to blow it on Rosh Hashanah, because 'Mitzvos are not given for one's (physical) benefit'.
2. In that one's creditors may come and claim their debts from his property.
And so it is, he explains, with regards to the pleasures of this world, from which Yisrael are well-advised to abstain. This too, does not include Mitzvos, most of which one perform with one's material belongings. Nor does it include what the nations of the world (Eisav's heirs) take from us. Their claims too, are valid, and continue to serve as atonement for our sins.
Interestingly, the relationship between these two issues depends on our deeds. If we behave the way we should, by following the path of Torah and Mitzvos, then we will be able to use our possessions in the performing of Mitzvos (such as Tzedakah, supporting Torah-scholars and other Mitzvos). Whereas if we stray from the path of Torah and Mitzvos, then Eisav's heirs will come and take our possessions by force, granting us an atonement for our sins in the process. As we already explained, we would have enjoyed neither of these advantages had this world belonged to Eisav by right.
Now we can understand the significance of the two goats of Yom Kipur here.
The goat for Hashem symbolizes the Mitzvos that we perform for the sake of Hashem, thereby atoning for the worldly possessions that are not really good for us, and that were not really meant for us in the first place. Whilst the goat for Azazel ('a bribe to Eisav', as the commentaries explain) represents the property which Eisav takes from us, and that helps to atone for all our sins.
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(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)
When Eisav saw Red
"And Eisav said 'Feed me this very red stuff!' That is why they called his name Edom" (25:30).
If what the Pasuk means is that Eisav became known as 'Edom' on account of the fact that he called the lentil broth 'this very red stuff', asks the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, then surely it would have been more appropriate to call him by that name because of his ruddy complexion?
Based on the double expression "min ho'odom ho'odom ha'zeh", he therefore explains a. that what Eisav meant was that Ya'akov should feed him some of that red stuff because he too, was ruddy (a play on words). And seeing as the concept of redness made such an impression on Eisav himself, the people took to calling him Eisav.
The Rashbam goes one step further. He explains that they called him by that name as a mark of derision - since both he was ruddy and he had such a strong desire to eat the red stuff that he was willing to give away his birthright on account of it, that they called him 'Edom'.
Why Eisav was Tired
" … because I am tired" (25:30).
On that day, says the Da'as Zekeinim, when the fifteen-year old Eisav began hunting, Nimrod, the mighty hunter, confronted him, claiming that nobody had the authority to hunt there other than himself. He challenged Eisav to a dual and fixed a date. Eisav went to consult his brother Ya'akov, who advised him that, as long as Nimrod was wearing his special hunting-suit that had originally belonged to Kayin, he did not stand a chance of defeating him, but that if he could convince him to remove it, he could beat him. Taking his brother's advice, he succeeded in getting him to remove his suit. In the ensuing dual, Eisav managed to kill Nimrod. Escaping Nimrod's men, he fled the scene. And that was why Eisav arrived home tired.
This explanation seems to clash with the Medrash cited by Rashi in Lech-L'cho (14:1) that King Amrafel was alias Nimrod. The Pasuk there (Pasuk 17) implies that Avraham killed the four kings - Amrafel included, almost a hundred years earlier.
Eisav Despised the Birthright
" … Ya'akov gave Eisav bread and a lentil broth … and Eisav despised the Bechorah" (25:34)
This is not an after-effect of the sale, the Da'as Zekeinim explains, but rather the cause. One should therefore translate the Pasuk in the pluperfect - "Eisav had despised the Bechorah" - and that is why Ya'akov bought the Bechorah from him.
In fact, Rebbi Yehudah ha'Chasid learns from this episode that if a Rasha has a Seifer-Torah or any other Mitzvah, a Tzadik is permitted to trick him into selling it!
So Ya'akov was an Ashkenazi!
"Onochi Eisav be'chorecho" (27:19)
To explain how Ya'akov, the pillar of Emes, could make this statement, the Arizal explains these words to mean 'I am who I am, and Eisav is your B'chor!' (similar to Rashi's explanation).
At first sight, Ya'akov's statement appears to be incorrect, since, having purchased the birthright from Eisav, he was the B'chor and not Eisav.
Perhaps that is why Ya'akov said 'your B'chor', and not just 'the B'chor'. Ya'akov, and of course Eisav, knew full well that Ya'akov was the firstborn, but Yitzchak did not. As far as he was concerned, Eisav was still the firstborn. Hence Ya'akov was fully justified in referring to Eisav as "your firstborn". (See Rashi, 25:26, who expresses a similar thought.)
The Ma'yanah shel Torah points out that according to the above explanation, Ya'akov had no choice other than to switch from 'Ani' to 'Onochi'. Why is that?
Because whereas the vowels of the word 'Onochi' are constant, irrespective of whether it means 'I' or 'I am', those of the word 'Ani' are not. 'Ani meaning 'I' is punctuated with a 'Patach' (ani) but when it means 'I am', it is punctuated 'Oni', with a 'Komatz'. Consequently, to avoid lying directly (by saying 'Oni' instead of 'Ani') Ya'akov was forced to use the ambiguous 'Onochi'. And this also explains why, just a few Pesukim later (in Pasuk 24), Ya'akov had no problem using the word 'Oni'.
Interestingly, this explanation is confined to the Ashkenazi pronounciation, as Sephardim do not differentiate between 'Ani meaning 'I' and 'Ani' meaning 'I am'.
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THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
"Go to the flock, and take for me from there two (ve'kach li mishom sh'nei) kid-goats … " (27:9).
The first letters of "Ve'kach Li Mishom SH'nei" spell 'mishelo' (belonging to him), observes the Ba'al ha'Turim) whereas the word "mi'shom" is equivalent to that of 'mi'sheli' (belonging to me). Rivkah was not stealing from Yitzchak, since as part of their marriage contract, she was entitled to goats every day (should she need them. See also Rashi).
"Veyitein l'cho … " (27:28)
This Pasuk contains ten words, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, corresponding to the ten B'rachos that Ya'akov received all in all, and the Ten Commandments.
" … he (Yitzchak) trembled … and said 'Who is the one (va'yomer mi eifoh) who hunted venison … ?" (27:33)
The first letters of "Va'yomer Mi Eifoh" spell 'Imo', his mother. It seems that Eisav guessed the mastermind behind the plot.
Furthermore, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, the Gematriyah of "Eifoh" is the same as that of 'Gehinom' (See Rashi).
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