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And her days grew full to give birth, and behold, twins were in her womb.(Bereishis 25:24)
In describing the birth of Yaakov and Esav the posuk uses the word ve-hiynai, which is translated as and behold. This word connotes surprise and the unexpected. For example, we find the same word being used when Yaakov discovered that the woman he married was Leah and not Rachel. The posuk (Bereishis 29:25) there states that in the morning ve-hiynai it was Leah. In the context of those posukim it is clear that there was an unexpected turn of events. Yaakov thought that he had married Rachel and then was surprised to discover that he had been fooled into marrying Leah. Likewise here, the posuk appears to indicate that it was a surprise for both Rivkah and Yitzchak that twins were born. They were only expecting one child not two. After all, let us not forget that Rivkah was an akarah and only conceived through the grace of Hashem. They were thus very surprised that Hashem had performed a double miracle on their behalf.
However, this interpretation is very difficult because we read above that Shem told Rivkah that two nations would emerge from her womb where one would be greater than the other and the older would serve the younger. With this prophecy in mind it should have been very clear to her and Yitzchak that they were destined to have twins. What then was the great surprise?
Let us suggest that Rivkah and Yitzchak misinterpreted the prophecy of Shem. They believed that they would have only a single child. They thought that this single child at some later time would develop into two nations. They believed that it was this single child who had expressed the desire to emerge from the womb to a place of Torah study and to a place of idol worship. The complex, contradictory nature of this child would one day produce two different nations. Even with the Shems prophecy in mind, they still believed that that they would have a single child and were thus surprised that twins were born.
With this idea let us attempt to suggest a new approach to the blessings given by Yitzchak later in the parsha. More specifically, let us try to understand the intent of Yitzchak and Rivkah in their respective desires to bless the child they felt was worthy of the blessings. Let us ask a basic question. Yitzchak and Rivkah had two children. Shem informed them that two great nation were destined to emerge from her womb. Why then didnt both Rivkah and Yitzchak agree to divide the blessing in two and give each child the element of blessing that was appropriate for that child? Why did they wish to grant one child everything and the other nothing?
The answer is that although it was a surprise to Yitzchak and Rivkah that they had twins they never abandoned their original interpretation of Shems prophecy. They still believed that only one of their two children would be the progenitor of two nations and not the other. The difficulty they now faced was which of the two would be the progenitor of these two nations. Would it be Yaakov or Esav? Yitzchak believed that it was Esav. He had a multifaceted character. On one hand Esav had the ability to engage his father in profound halachik discussion, yet also excelled in the mundane art of hunting. This dual character led Yitzchak to believe that Esav was destined to produce two great and different nations. Indeed, Yitzchak justified this belief immediately before granting the blessings. When Yitzchak kissed Esav he declared, The voice is the voice of Yaakov but hands are the hands of Esav. This statement reflects an awareness that this child possessed the dual character needed to produce two great but different nations. However, Rivkah saw through the wickedness of Esav believed that it was Yaakov who would be the progenitor of the two great nations. The truth was that both Yitzchak and Rivkah were mistaken. They misinterpreted the prophecy of Shem. The two nations had already come to be. One was the nation that Esav would build and lead, and the other was the nation that Yaakov would build and lead. In truth, it was originally destined for them to share the berachos and work together in bringing the world towards its purpose. Each one was supposed to contribute his unique talents towards this purpose, and each would enhance the other.
However, Hashem allowed this confusion to persist because Hashem foresaw that Esav would not be a faithful partner to Yaakov. Hashem thus changed the plan and decreed that Yaakov should receive everything. The nation of Yaakov alone would guide the world towards its destiny and was thus entitled to receive the complete blessing. Had Yitzchak and Rivkah properly understood the true nature of the prophecy they both would have had agreed to divide the blessing in two, and none of this would ever have come to be. Hashem orchestrated the misinterpretation of Rivkah and Yitzchak to effect His own design and purpose.
With this understanding we may suggest that when the posuk relates, Yitzchak trembled a very great trembling, it was not simply a fear of having given the blessing to the wrong child. Rather, when Esav entered Yitzchaks chambers with the same presentation as Yaakov, Yitzchak was struck with the realization that he had misinterpreted the prophecy. He realized that in truth both nations had already emerged, one from Yaakov and the other from Esav. He understood that he should have instructed both of them to prepare for the blessings just as they had both done without his command. He trembled because he misinterpreted the prophecy and thus caused a single child to receive a double portion without leaving anything to the other.
There is a very powerful message here. Both Rivkah and Yitzchak strongly believed that the child they had chosen was the truly deserving recipient of blessing. The commentators tell us that Yitzchak and Esav were suspicious that Yaakov might attempt to steal the blessings. However, after granting the blessing, Yitzchak was confident that he had accomplished his intent by giving the blessing to Esav and that no one succeeded in outsmarting him. On the other hand, Rivkah believed that she outsmarted Yitzchak and Esav by successfully redirecting the blessings to Yaakov. However ultimately the will and design of Hashem was realized.