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Vol. 23 No. 6
The sharp contrast between Ya'akov and Eisav is symbolical of the deep rift that divides the Tzadik from the Rasha, and represents the ideological difference that form an impenetrable barrier between them.
On the one hand, we find the Avos displaying a rare consistency in their pursuit of Torah and Mitzvos, never wavering even in the face of all forms of diverse circumstances (a prime example being the ten tests of Avraham). On the other, in stark contrast, we have the blatant inconsistencies of Eisav, which brand him king of hypocrites!
See how, on one occasion, in a moment of extreme hunger, Eisav is easily persuaded to sell his birthright - a birthright that he considers is more trouble than it is worth - in exchange for a bowl of delicious lentil soup. Commenting on the Pasuk that Eisav despised the birthright, the Medrash relates how, following the deal that he made with Ya'akov, he gathered his cronies and they sat down to celebrate. When they heard about the sale, they roared with laughter at the stupidity of Ya'akov, who sold such a wonderful dish for something so useless.
Yet when his father Yitzchak offers him the blessings that are due to one's firstborn son, he 'forgets', not only the fact that due to his own impetuousness the birthright no longer belonged to him, but the utter contempt that he had previously displayed for the very birthright that he now began making extensive preparations to regain!
And we find this Midah of inconsistency repeated later following the death of his brother Ya'akov. On that occasion, as the B'nei Yisrael are about to bury their father in the Me'oras ha'Machpeilah, Eisav approaches them and insists that he is the B'chor and that consequently, the right to be buried alongside his father (Yitzchak) and mother (Rivkah) belongs to him. Once again, it seems to have slipped his mind (though he had an exceptionally good memory when it came to bearing grudges) that the very birthright that he was now invoking, he had rejected outright years earlier. Moreover, he had sold all his rights to be buried in the family sepulcher (the Me'oras ha'Machpeilah) for a vast sum of money - all that a far-sighted Ya'akov had made in Charan.
Such is the way of a Rasha, such is the way of Eisav. He lives for the whims and fancies of the moment. One moment it is good food, another it is prestige. He will sell a valuable article today, playing down its value - because he is hungry. And he will deny having sold it tomorrow, when his reputation is at stake.
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The commentaries give many reasons to explain why Yitzchak became blind …
1. He was blinded by the smoke of the idolatrous sacrifices brought by his son Eisav's wives.
2. At the time of the Akeidah, when Avraham raised his knife to Shecht him, the angels began to weep, and their tears fell into his eyes.
3. Whilst the Akeidah was taking place, he ascended to the loftiest heights and he gazed upon the Divine Throne of Glory.
4. Because he failed to rebuke his son Eisav (a blind eye for turning a blind eye), much in the same way as, many years later, Eli ha'Kohen would become blind for the same reason.
5. He became blind for accepting bribery (in the form of the venison that he regularly brought him) from Eisav - as the Torah specifically warns in Parshas Mishpatim.
6. Yitzchak requested yisurim (suffering), so that people would be able to attain atonement for their sins in this world, to thereby earn a clear passage to Olam ha'Ba after death.
7. It was a Divine decree, to enable Ya'akov to obtain the B'rachos in place of his brother Eisav.
The Or ha'Chayim prefers the latter explanation to the others, and he uses it to explain the opening word "Vay'hi" (which generally has connotations of pain and suffering), in the following way. It is unfortunate, he writes, that Ya'akov had to obtain the B'rachos in such a devious manner, without his father's full consent (behind his back, as it were). This resulted in ongoing hatred of Eisav towards Ya'akov, a hatred that has continued to manifest itself throughout history until this very day, and that has been at the root of so much suffering and bloodshed.
On the other hand, the very strange manner in which Ya'akov received the B'rachos teaches us that our destiny lies, not in our own hands, but in the Hands of G-d. Yitzchak genuinely believed that he was blessing Eisav, yet in fact, he was blessing Ya'akov. It is reassuring to know that even the sincere intentions of a Tzadik of the caliber of Yitzchak could not interfere with the Divine plan to bless Ya'akov, for then we know that no power on earth can deflect G-d's blessings when they are directed at K'lal Yisrael. And it was presumably, with all this in mind that G-d made Yitzchak blind in the first place - since 'everything that G-d does, He does for the good'.
It was on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan that the above episode took place. That is why Ya'akov brought his father two goats, one for the Korban Pesach and one for the Korban Chagigah. The Korban Pesach, the Maharal explains, represents the Oneness of G-d. It is a manifestation of the lesson that we just learned, which in turn, is encapsulated in the Pasuk, 'Many are the thoughts of man, but it is G-d's plan that will prevail" (Mishlei, 19:21).
And it was the night of the fifteenth of Nisan (the anniversary of the blessing of Ya'akov) that the mighty Egyptian empire lay shattered, its inhabitants decimated following a year of plague upon plague, culminating in the slaying of all their firstborn, human and animal. A generation or two earlier, Par'oh had decreed inhuman subjugation of his Jewish guests for fear that they might increase …. But G-d decreed that they will increase, that the B'rachos of Yitzchak come to fruition. And so, defying all logic, they increased to the point that they became a great and mighty nation, whereas the Egyptians were reduced to rabble, a secondary nation that would never again become a world power.
And it is that absolute supremacy over all that Par'oh was forced to acknowledge; it is that supremacy which we celebrate at the Seider-table.
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Corrections to "Important Events"
in the Parshas Vayeiro issue
|2013|| … The Battle of the nine kings.|
|2018|| … The B'ris bein ha'Besarim|
|2023|| … Avram & Sarai return to Eretz Cana'an (which they left after the B'ris bein ha'Besarim) for good.|
|2033|| … Avram takes Hagar as a wife.|
|2034|| … Yishmael is born.|
|2047|| … The B'ris Milah. The three angels visit Avraham.S'dom & Amorah are overturned |
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