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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5758) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz

Volume XII, Number 6
29 Cheshvan 5758
November 29, 1997

Sponsored by:

The Benn Family
on the first yahrzeit of their father
David Benn a”h


We read in this week’s parashah how Yaakov wrested the rights of the bechorah/birthright from Esav. The midrash says that Yaakov used his Torah knowledge to accomplish this. How so?

R’ Avraham Abuchatzeirah z”l (20th century) explains as follows: Another midrash says, “Why did Yaakov risk his life for the birthright? He saw that the sacrificial service in the then- future mishkan would initially be performed by the firstborn and later would be transferred to the kohanim.” Yaakov learned from this that a firstborn can lose his rights, something which is not intuitively apparent. Why did the firstborn of the Exodus generation lose their rights? Because of the sins associated with the golden calf, i.e., idolatry and murder. (Bnei Yisrael killed Chur, had who rebuked them.)

Chazal say that on the day that Esav sold the birthright to Yaakov, Esav committed those very same sins – he denied the existence of G-d and he murdered Nimrod. If so, Esav, like the firstborn of the future, had forfeited his rights. This is what the above midrash means: Yaakov used his Torah knowledge to recognize that the prerogatives of the birthright were transferrable if the firstborn sinned.

(Toldot Avraham)

An Astonishing Midrash

“The G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak, and the G-d of Yaakov” – this is the meaning of the verse (Tehilim 124:1), “If not that Hashem was with us, we would say, ‘Yisrael’.”

Of the third Patriarch’s two names, Yaakov and Yisrael, the latter refers to his greatest spiritual accomplishments. Why, then, did the authors of Shemoneh Esrei use the name “Yaakov” in the above phrase?

The phrase, “The G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak, and the G-d of Yaakov” has 26 letters, which is the gematria of Hashem’s Name. If not for the significance of the number 26 – causing “Hashem” to be ” with us” – the name Yisrael (which is longer) could have been used.

” If you do evil with us . . . ! Just as we have not molested you, and just as we have done with you only good and have sent you away in peace – Now, you, O blessed of Hashem.” (26:29)

Throughout the Torah, the word “only” signifies a limitation. Thus, the midrash comments on the above verse that the good which the Plishtim did with Yitzchak was only a partial good. How so? R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (19th century) explains as follows:

The gemara (Berachot 64a – tomorrow’s daf yomi) states that one who parts from another should say, “Go to peace,” and should not say, “Go in peace.” The gemara demonstrates that those who were sent “to peace” succeeded thereafter, while those who were sent “in peace” did not. Thus, the Plishtim who sent Yitzchak “in peace,” as our verse states, did him only a partial good.

(Imrei Shefer)

Why is it harmful to say, “Go in shalom,” rather than, “Go to shalom”? R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l (20th century) explains:

When one says, “Go in . . . ,” one gives his friend the illusion that the road before him will be easy. This is not the case, as life is full of spiritual and material stumbling blocks. A person who incorrectly believes that the road will be easy will be unprepared and will come to harm.

Rather, one should say, “Go to . . .” Shalom can be attained eventually, but it is far off. Only at a funeral do we say, “Go in . . .,” for the deceased can have shalom.

(Ain Ayah, Berachot 64a)

“But he did not recognize him because his hands were hairy like those of Esav; so he blessed him.” (27:23)

How does the second half of the verse (“so he blessed him”) follow from the first half of the verse? Also, what blessing did Yitzchak give Yaakov at this point? – the actual blessing is not given until several verses later! Finally, what good could it do Yaakov to take the blessings if Yitzchak had Esav in mind when he spoke them?

Rabbenu Yonah z”l (13th century) explains that when Yitzchak said (in the previous verse), “The voice is the voice of Yaakov, and the hands are the hands of Esav,” he was indicating that he did not know which of his sons stood before him. He understood that whichever son G-d wished the blessing to go to would be blessed. “So he blessed him” means, “He accepted G-d’s will that whomever received the blessings would be blessed.” Thus, all three questions are answered.

(Derashot U’Perushei Rabbenu Yonah Al Hatorah)

“Bless me too, my father.” (27:34)

Three times Esav asked Yitzchak to bless him. Twice Yitzchak responded that this could not be done, yet the third time he did bless Esav. Why? R’ Yitzchak Karo z”l (15th century; uncle of R’ Yosef Karo) explains the progression of the verses as follows:

Yitzchak blessed Yaakov that he would be a lord over his brother. Obviously, such a blessing could be given only once; therefore, in response to Esav’s first request, Yitzchak said (27:35), “Your brother came . . . and took your blessing.”

But Yitzchak did not specify to Esav what that blessing was, so Esav did not understand Yitzchak’s meaning. Thus Esav responded (27:36), “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”

Yitzchak then explained (27:37), “Behold a lord I have made him over you . . . ; with grain and wine I have supported him.”

Esav retorted (27:38), “Have you but one blessing, father?” What you just said is not one blessing, but two, and the second one can be given to both of us!

Yitzchak agreed, and he blessed Esav (27:39), “Behold, of the fatness of the earth shall be your dwelling.”

(Toldot Yitzchak)

R’ Meir Leibush Malbim z”l (19th century) explains the phrase, “Your brother came . . . and took your blessing” to mean: “I had intended to bless you with wealth only so that you could support your brother Yaakov in his Torah study. However, now that I have blessed Yaakov with wealth, I have no more reason to bless you. Indeed, any wealth you might attain would not be a blessing, but a curse, because you would have no good use for it.”

To this Esav responded, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” “Surely you have not given Yaakov every possible form of success! Surely Yaakov still needs me in some respect!”

Yitzchak responded that this was not the case; Yaakov did not need Esav’s support at all.

Esav then asked, “Have you but one blessing?” “Can I not receive a blessing on my own without regard to Yaakov’s needs?”

To this Yitzchak, as a loving father, agreed, and he blessed Esav.

(Hatorah Ve’hamitzvah)

R’ Yehoshua Leib Diskin z”l (19th century) states that Yitzchak did not bless Esav. He simply foretold prophetically that Esav would live off the fat of the earth.

(Maharil Diskin Al Hatorah)

R’ Yehuda ibn Chayug z”l born approx. 950 – died approx. 1020

R’ Yehuda ben David ibn Chayug was a grammarian and a pupil of R’ Menachem ben Saruk. He is known both for defending his teacher’s views against R’ Donash ben Lavrat and for his own grammatical theories.

Whereas earlier scholars recognized roots of two letters, or even one, R’ Yehuda argued that all words are derived from three letter roots. He showed that even words consisting of two letters stem from a three letter root, with one letter dropping out in the conjugation. For this discovery, R’ Yehuda was widely acclaimed.

R’ Yehuda wrote four works: Sefer Hanoach Ve’hameshech, concerning verbs which drop letters in conjugation; Sefer Poalei Ha’keifel, concerning verbs which have doubled root letters; Sefer Hanikud, on vowelization; Sefer Harikchah, which is lost and whose precise subject is unknown. (Source: The Artscroll Rishonim p.56)

Copyright © 1997 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.

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