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WELL, BLESS MY SOUL

by Rabbi Shmuel Weiss    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The "Battle of the Blessing" which takes place in this week’s Torah portion is one of the most multi-faceted, complex episodes in the Torah.

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The "Battle of the Blessing" which takes place in this week’s Torah portion is one of the most multi-faceted, complex episodes in the Torah. Jacob’s deception, Rebeccah’s bold defiance of her husband, Isaac’s blindness--literal and figurative--all beg intense exploration and clarification.

Let’s focus on one aspect of the issue. We all know that treaties signed under false pretenses are invalid. If the seller represents his product as one thing, and it turns out be quite another, we have recourse to nullify the deal. So why do we not invalidate Isaac’s belssing to Jacob, when it was clearly a case of false representation?

Here are three possible answers. First, we must understand that Isaac did not cede any actual material property or possessions to his sons. He was invoking Hashem’s blessings upon them--an intangible item--with the hope that they would then live up to the spiritual mantle now placed on their shoulders. There was no guarantee of success; only a mandate to go out and fulfill their respective destinies.

The success or failure of the blessing depended, ultimately, upon their own actions. An invalid sale only applies to real items that change hands.

Second, in Jewish thought, there is a concept that whatever the righteous decree, Hashem makes it come true." Once Isaac had pronounced his blessing on Jacob and not Esau, the words were already "out there." They could not be recalled, for the cosmic wheel had already been put in spin. Just as Jacov unwittingly doomed his wife Rachel (when he said whoever took Laban’s idols must die), so too Isaac had uttered the "magic words" which could not now be recalled. They became true simply because he said them--a stark reminder of just how powerful and unstoppable words can be.

Finally, if we examine the blessings given to Jacob and Esau, we find, quite remarkably, that they are essentially the same! Each son is promised "the fat of the earth and the dew of heaven," metaphors for material and spiritual excellence, respectively. The only difference was in the order in which the two clauses came.

In Jacob’s case, the "dew of heaven" came first. Jacob would have as his priority the pursuit of spiritual values--Torah learning, mitzvah observance, closeness to Hashem--and the promise that heaven would help him achieve these goals if he loyally pursued them. Esau’s first inclination would lie in his conquest of material success, an emphasis on the earth and not heaven. There was no need, then, to "recall" the blessings, for they were almost identical pronouncements.

Ultimately, both Jacob and Rebeccah would pay a heavy price for their actions in this case. But the path of spirituality which they blazed--regardless of the surrounding circumstances--would carry on forever.

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Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family, is the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Rana’ana, Israel.

You are invited to read more Parshat Toldot articles.

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