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Now, sharpen if you please, your gear – your sword and your bow and go out to the field and catch game for me (Bereishis 27:3).
In this week’s parsha we learn how Rivkah successfully guided her son Yaakov into receiving the blessing from his father Yitzchak. This episode in the Torah is one of the most difficult to fully understand. The commentators discuss it at great length. We will now attempt to offer a deeper approach to this event by drawing upon ideas presented by the classic commentators. Let us begin by asking a few questions and making a few observations.
1) Yitzchak instructed Eisav to go out to field with his bow and sword and capture an animal. The animal would be prepared and then be eaten by Yitzchak so that he would bless him. It would appear from the simple reading of the posuk that as a prerequisite for the blessing, Eisav would have to go out to the field and capture an animal. How then was it possible for the blessing to rest upon Yaakov when he did not fulfill this condition? Rivkah gave Yaakov two young goats that she picked from the animals that were available at home.
2) We are told in the parsha that Rivkah dressed Yaakov in Eisav’s clothing (Bereishis 27:15). Chazal tell us that these clothing were originally owned and worn by Adam Ha’rishon. After Adam’s death they were seized by Nimrod. Later, Eisav murdered Nimrod in order to steal them. The clothing had unusual powers. When wearing them in the field one could capture any animal with the greatest ease. Indeed, Eisav would put on these clothing when he went out to hunt. We would expect that after Yitzchak instructed Eisav to go out to the field and hunt for game he would don these clothing. When else would be a more appropriate time to take advantage of the powers found in these clothing? Why then did Eisav leave them at home?
3) The Midrash tells us that Eisav was only successful in capturing a dog. Indeed, he was willing to present this non-kosher dog to his father as a fulfillment of his father’s condition in order to receive the blessings. How can it be that “the master hunter” was suddenly only able to capture a dog? Eisav possessed exceptionally good hunting skills even without the special clothing of Adam Ha’rishon.
4) When Rivkah gave Yaakov the two young goats, Rashi explains that she told him that they were not stolen but legally hers as part of Yitzchak’s kesuvah obligation to her. Why did she have to mention this? Certainly, after being married for so many years she was free to do whatever she wished with all the possessions of the home without asking her husband; and particularly so, since the young goats were being prepared for her husband. Although we may answer that the Torah is telling us that she was scrupulously honest, it does not seem that here is the correct place to bring out this point.
We may suggest the following: When Yitzchak wished to bless Eisav he explained that the blessings can only be bestowed if the Divine Presence would rest upon him. To achieve this was no easy task. Chazal tell us that the Divine Presence only rests upon an individual when he is in a state of joy. Furthermore, the state of joy must be derived from something holy and not mundane. To achieve this state of joy Yitzchak planned to eat the delicacies as part of seudas mitzvah, specifically, as his karban pesach. However, this was not enough. The animal would also need to be retrieved through Divine Providence. He told Eisav to go out into the field and pray that Hashem guide him in finding an animal without resorting to his mundane hunting tools. When that animal would be sanctified by being retrieved through prayer and eaten at a seudas mitzvah this would elevate Yitzchak to an exalted degree of holiness and the Divine Presence would rest upon him, enabling him to bestow the blessings.
We may prove that this was the true intention of Yitzchak by carefully examining his words. Yitzchak said to Eisav “go out to the field.” In parshas Chayei Sarah the posuk says “and Yitzchak went out to pray in the field” (Bereishis 24:63). We see from here that in regard to Yitzchak the use the words “go out to field” are interpreted as meaning prayer. Furthermore, Yitzchak told Eisav to prepare his tools which include his bow and sword. Later in parshas Vayechi the posuk records Yaakov’s words to Yosef by saying “And I have given you Shechem – one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow (Bereishis 48:22). Here the targum translates the words sword and bow as referring to two different expressions of prayer. Likewise, Yitzchak’s use of the words bow and sword, indicate that he was instructing Eisav to prepare himself for prayer that would be necessary to succeed in retrieving his game.
Although it is commonly thought that Eisav was completely secular, the commentators explain that he was a lot more spiritual then we think. Eisav fully understood that in order for the Divine Presence to rest on his father, he would have to precisely follow his orders and produce a “product of prayer.” There was no way he could fool his father in this manner. One cannot forge a “product of prayer.” If the item was derived in a holy manner, the Divine Presence would simply not rest upon his father. He had no choice but to go out and pray that Hashem guide him in finding a suitable animal for his father. He purposely abandoned his special clothing. They would be of no use here. Eisav did not wish to pray to Hashem but he knew that it would be to his benefit to make an exception just this one time. However, at this point in his life he was so far removed from his spiritual upbringing that his prayers were insincere and futile. He always knew that this day would come but he deluded himself into believing that at a moment’s notice he could wrap himself up in a talis and become a Yaakov and also produce a “product of prayer.” To his disappointment, the best his payers could do was retrieve a dog. The Zohar says that the dog is the most spiritually distant of all animals. “A dog is man’s best friend.” The Zohar explains that this is because the dog doesn’t sense the existence of Hashem. The dog thinks man is God and therefore worships him. All other animals recognize to some degree the existence of Hashem and therefore have no desire to serve man who is merely a servant of Hashem. Hashem hinted to Eisav that his prayers were far removed from spirituality like the distance of a dog to Hashem.
When Rivka heard Yitzchak’s instructions, she retrieved for Yaakov two young goats from her kesubah entitlements. The marriage of Yitzchak to Rivkah was the product of Yitzchak’s prayers. The posuk in Chayei Sarah says that “Yitzchak went out to the field to pray.” Chazal tell us that Yitzchak’s prayed that Eliezer should succeed in finding him an appropriate mate. Yitzchak prayers were answered with Rivkah. Rivkah, on a moment’s notice, needed a “product of prayer” to serve as a vehicle to elevate Yitzchak into a receptacle for of the Divine Presence. Her marriage to him was a “product of prayer,” therefore she took specifically from her kesubah entitlements which are directly related to the formation of her marriage. Yaakov thus fulfilled the condition of his father. He provided him with a true “product of prayer.” In fact it was the product of Yitzchak’s own prayer. It was produced in the field with a sword and a bow. The field was the field mentioned in Chayei Sarah where Yitzchak himself went. The sword and bow were Yitzchak’s own prayers.
Rivkah’s plan proved successful, the Divine Presence rested on Yitzchak and he blessed Yaakov. Yitzchak believed that his plan was foolproof, for the only way the Divine Presence would rest upon him was if the person bringing him the delicacies would have the power of prayer and thus be truly worthy of the blessing. Little did he know that the product of prayer he was eating was the product of his own prayer. He wasn’t fooled by Yaakov. He fooled himself.
With our approach to this parsha it emerges that ultimately it was Yitzchak’s own prayer that saved himself from making the dreadful mistake of blessing Eisav. In life there are different approaches for successful achievements. We may put an emphasis on prayer or emphasize our own endeavors. Had the marriage of Rivkah come about without prayer then the goats of Rivkah would not have achieved the desired result. Yaakov may not have had enough time to produce a “product of prayer.” Eisav may have succeeded in receiving the blessing through his non-kosher dog that was produced through minimal insincere prayer. It is important to note that some commentators (Ta’am Vada’as) explain that really Eisav did succeed in finding a goat, just that in contrast to the quality of Yaakov goats it was considered a dog. It was Yitzchak’s own prayer that saved him from himself. When something is achieved through prayer, that prayer will always protect his achievements. We never know how far a prayer can go.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2003