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Posted on November 16, 2023 (5784) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

He [Esav] said, “Bless me too, father!” He [Yitzchok] said, “Your brother came with deception and took your blessing.” He [Esav] said, “Is it because his name was called Yaakov that he outwitted me twice?”[1]

This is a difficult dialogue to follow. Esav was well aware that Yaakov had taken the brachah through deception. Yitzchok had told him as much. After his immediate cry of anguish, Esav began to pull himself together. His father seemingly had endless brachos to give. If Esav couldn’t get the brachah that he had hoped for, there was always a Plan B. He asked his father for a different brachah.

Yitzchok’s response makes no sense. He simply repeated what he had said before. Yaakov had deceived him, and ran off with the gold medal. How did this address Esav’s request for the bronze?

Esav’s reacts with an exclamation about this not having been the first time. It seems pointless. Was he simply letting off steam? Why doesn’t he engage his father, and pursue his request for a brachah?

A midrash provides an answer. It says, “with deception – this means with wisdom.”[2]

This is what the midrash is telling us: Deception comes in different forms. One kind requires no wisdom at all. Arrogance, perhaps. The ability to lie without compunction and without flinching. You can deceive someone simply by inventing lies or distorting the truth. It does not take rocket science.

Another kind, however, takes brains. It requires planning, strategy. The master of this kind of deception is a chess-player, anticipating the moves of the other players. The traps he sets for the unsuspecting can work for years without anyone discovering them.

Yaakov, the “dweller of tents,”[3] would hardly be expected to exhibit ingenuity any deception. He was too cut off from the rest of the world. He had no experience with true ruthlessness. He was not going to hatch a plot that would astound people for its cleverness. Or so thought Esav. If he found it necessary to lie, Yaakov would do just that – but nothing more. Esav believed that Yaakov had simply presented himself to his father, and said, “It’s me! Esav, your first-born!”

Yitzchok responded, according to our midrash, that Esav had underestimated his brother. No, he had not simply claimed to be Esav. He came with wisdom. He anticipated that Yitzchok would be suspicious, so he dressed in Esav’s clothing, and donned a hairy skin to hide his own smooth features. He got past Yitzchok’s examination.

Yitzchok, too, was surprised at this. He could only conclude that Yaakov had been acting with special Divine assistance. Hashem had given Yaakov special wisdom for the moment, so that he would receive the brachah. If that were so, then he, Yitzchok, had been in error about Esav and his suitability to receive the brachah. Therefore, he was not interested in giving him any brachah at all!

Esav persisted. “No, father. That’s not what happened. Yaakov has done this before. He is certainly capable of full deviousness himself. Don’t assume that this required Divine intervention.

Esav apparently was successful, for Yitzchok answered his request positively, and gave Esav a substantial brachah!

  1. Bereishis 27:34-36
  2. Bereishis Rabbah 67:4
  3. Bereishis 25:27