Parashas Toldos

We present two short selections from the Maggid’s commentary on this week’s parashah.
1. The Torah relates (Bereishis 25:28): “Yitzchak loved Eisav, for [his] catch was in his mouth, while Rivkah held an abiding love for Yaakov.” The Maggid asks: How did it happen with this saintly couple that the father focused his love on one son while the mother focused her love on the other? He then explains the matter as follows. Yitzchak grew up in a home of firm righteousness, established by his saintly parents Avraham and Sarah. In this home, only the absolute truth was spoken, and he himself continued in this path of perfect honesty. Thus, when Eisav approached him, as the Midrash relates (Bereishis Rabbah 63:10), to ask him how to tithe salt and straw, he was awestruck, and he thought to himself: “This young man will surely be extraordinarily meticulous with mitzvos.” Rivkah, on the other hand, grew up with the conniving Lavan, and so she was intimately familiar with deceit and hypocrisy. From this perspective, she recognized that Eisav was trying to dupe Yitzchak with a façade of piety. As the Midrash teaches (ibid.), in a homiletical interpretation of the phrase “catch was in his mouth,” Yitzchak loved Eisav because Eisav trapped him with his mouth. But Rivkah, who knew that Eisav was a faker, focused all her love on Yaakov.
2. In his older years, Yitzchak calls Eisav and tells him to catch game for him and make him delicacies to eat, so that “my soul may bless you before I die” (Bereishis 27:4). Rivkah overhears Yitzchak’s words, approaches Yaakov, and tells him (ibid. 27:6-10):
Behold, I heard your father speaking to your brother Eisav, saying, “Bring me some game and make me delicacies to eat, and I will bless you in the presence of Hashem before my death.” So now, my son, heed my voice regarding what I am commanding you. Go, now, to the flock and fetch me from there two choice kid goats, and I will make them into delicacies for your father, the way he likes. And bring this to your father and let him eat, so that he may bless you before his death.
The Maggid raises two questions. First, why did Rivkah preface her charge to Yaakov with a narrative about what she heard Yitzchak tell Eisav? Seemingly, she had no real need to include this preface; she could have simply issued him the charge. Second, why did Yitzchak ask Eisav for the delicacies in the first place? Could he not have just blessed him, without the delicacies? The Maggid then proceeds to answer these questions.
He takes up the second question first. There are certain actions that a person performs because he has an inner desire to do so. And then there are actions that a person decides he needs to carry out, but has no inner desire for, and thus pose a need for him to concoct an external impetus. For example, if a person is healthy, he has a natural desire to eat, but if he is sick, he needs to generate a desire to eat through some stimulant such as a shot of liquor. Thus it was with Yitzchak. He had decided he should bless Eisav, because he was the firstborn. But he felt no desire to do so, for he knew that Eisav was unworthy. He therefore told Eisav to bring him delicacies to eat, in order to arouse within himself a desire to bless him.
The Maggid then turns to the first question. He explains that the aim of Rivkah’s preface was to boost Yaakov’s morale, so that he would not hesitate to do what she told him. She explained to him that Yitzchak had resorted to delicacies as an external stimulant because he did not really want to bless Eisav. This being so, she argued, Yaakov should resolutely heed her charge to step in and take the blessing.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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