Our father Yitzchak emerges as a very enigmatic person in this week’s
parsha. The dominant figure in the parsha is our mother Rivkah. It is she
who assesses the true situation and character descriptions of her twin
sons Eisav and Yaakov. It is she who sends Yaakov to the house of Lavan in
order to escape the wrath of his brother Eisav. It is she who orchestrates
the plan to obtain the blessings of Yitzchak on behalf of Yaakov instead
of Eisav. In short, she is the main player in this drama of eternal
confrontation and family tension.
The commentators all ask the same question: “Why is Rivkah so active in
all of these momentous family matters while Yitzchak seems so passive in
confronting the burgeoning threat of Eisav and his murderous enmity
towards Yaakov?” Most commentators seem to think that Yitzchak felt that
confronting Eisav would only exacerbate an already bad situation and that
Eisav somehow could be won over by being coddled and appeased. Eisav,
after all, was the oldest son and in spite of his otherwise evil behavior
was respectful of his father. It is reminiscent of the famous book about
the Mafia gangsters of New York that was entitled “But They Were Good To
Other commentators point out that Yitzchak’s own experience with his
wayward half-brother Yishmael influenced him. After all, at the end of his
life Yishmael repented of his ways and reconciled himself to Yitzchak and
the holy ways of the house of Avraham. Perhaps Eisav will follow in his
ways as well.
Rivkah who comes from the house of Lavan and Betuel is not so sanguine
about the future of her eldest son. She recognizes in him the bent toward
selfishness, greed and instant gratification that characterizes her
brother Lavan. She is of the opinion that making nice to Eisav will not in
any way help him overcome his weaknesses. As painful as it must have been
for her, she realizes that she must choose between the two brothers. She
hears the words of the prophetic message told her during her difficult
pregnancy that the two brothers will constantly struggle against each
other – that they are polar opposites from her womb onwards.
She is forced to take steps to insure that Yaakov should survive this
struggle and emerge reinforced with the blessings of Yitzchak and Avraham
intact within him. Yitzchak, who did not hear that heavenly message
directly and is therefore not bound by it, hopes to salvage Eisav and does
not feel that he will harm Yaakov by so doing.
The Torah records for us the fateful decision of Rivkah to force the
matter. After it is over and Yaakov takes leave of Yitzchak to depart for
the house of Lavan, Yitzchak acquiesces in Rivkah’s initiative and
confirms the blessings to Yaakov.
The tear in the fabric of the family is now complete and stretches all the
way through the generations of history. The blessings of Yitzchak to
Yaakov have enabled Israel to survive till this day. But the fury and
enmity of Eisav over those blessings has never subsided, again even until
Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Berel Wein and Torah.org
Visit www.rabbiwein.com for a complete selection of Rabbi Wein's books and tapes.