THE BLESSINGS OF ISAAC
Rabbi Yisroel Chait
Upon analyzing the events surrounding the blessings of Issac to his children
it seems that certain inferences can be made. When Issac discovered that
Jacob fooled him, his response is recorded at Genesis Chapter 27 verse
33 "And Issac trembled very exceedingly..." It would appear that
Issac was truly amazed upon discovering Esau's true personality. However
this reaction raises a very poignant question. When Jacob brought Issac
the venison he requested of Esau, Issac remarked that his quest for the
venison was successful rather quickly. Jacob answered that the promptness
of the mission was facilitated by G-d. Rashi on this verse 21 states that
"Issac thought in his heart, it is not the custom of Esau that the
name of G-d should be fluent in his mouth..." It would thus seem that
Issac was aware of Esau's true nature.
We must also understand the significance of the blessings. Chazal, the
Rabbis teach us that the blessings although couched in physical terms are
blessings of the spiritual. In this regard, Maimonedes in the Ninth Chapter
of the Laws of Repentance states that the reason for blessings and curses
is merely to reflect G-d's providence in this world. Therefore, they are
written in terms of worldly good and evil, although the true benefit is
the world to come.
Why was Esau so interested in spiritual blessings? Furthermore, after
Issac discovered he blessed Jacob, Esau pleads with his father three times,
don't you have a blessing for me. At first Issac responded that the blessings
were already given to Jacob, but finally he seems to relent and blesses
Esau as well. What was this blessing if in fact Jacob had usurped the blessings
beforehand. Furthermore, an analysis of the blessing of Jacob and Esau
seems strikingly similar. Both seem to contain the blessing that each shall
be fortunate to attain the dew of the heavens and the fat of the earth.
Issac essentially had two blessings. One blessing was for the physical
goodness of this world. This was a blessing for the material benefits of
this world, which is not the ultimate good. However, Issac also bestowed
the essential blessing of the truly spiritual, which he obtained from his
father Abraham. This was the blessing which he gave Jacob and is recited
at the commencement of Chapter 28. Chapter 28 verses 3 and 4 state "And
G-d almighty shall bless thee and make thee fruitful and multiply thee,
and thou may become a congregation of people. And I give thee the blessing
of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed with you, so thou may inherit the land
of thou sojournings which G-d gave unto Abraham."
These blessings were inherently spiritual. This was the blessing of
Abraham that the nation of Israel, a nation based upon the laws of the Torah,
will come forth from Jacob.
Issac was not fully ignorant of Esau's character. He was aware of Esau's
instinctual needs and desires. In the same fashion, he appreciated that
Jacob was a simple man, whose nature was more in line with perfection derived
from the learning of Torah. Accordingly, the blessings in Chapter 28 which
were inherently spiritual, Issac had always intended to bestow upon Jacob.
As the man of Torah, he had to be recognized as the one who would bring
forth the will of G-d. However, because of Esau's nature, Issac felt that
Esau needed the blessing of the physical as a means for Esau to reach his
perfection. He didn't perceive Esau as a wicked person but rather as an
instinctual being, that required the physical in order to assist him to
elevate himself to a higher level of perfection. He felt that Esau would
utilize the blessing of the physical to help Jacob perpetuate the teachings
of the Torah. Issac's miscalculation of Esau's true character resulted
because of Issac's nature. Issac was the consummate TZADDIK. He was unable
to leave Israel because of said status. Abraham was compelled to send Eliezer
to choose Issac a wife because Issac was incapable of judging an individuals
true character. As the purely righteous individual, Issac was naive and
incapable of perceiving evil. He was unable to appreciate the nuances of
the average mans actions. Thus he wrongly perceived Esau's character.
However, it wasn't a total misconception. He intended to bless Esau with
the blessings of the physical as a means for his perfection. He was oblivious
to the fact that Esau sought the physical as an end, in and of itself.
Thereafter, upon realizing that Jacob had received the blessings of the
physical, which he intended to bestow upon Esau, a fear gripped him. He
suddenly became aware that G-d's providence had determined that Jacob receive
these blessings. He thus realized that he misjudged Esau and that Esau
was truly an instinctual being whose only value was the life of the physical.
He thus realized and feared that he had raised a wicked person in his house.
Rebecca was aware of her son Esau's true personality and realized that
if Esau obtained the blessing of the physical he would utilize it to destroy
Jacob. Rebecca was raised in the house of wicked people and was a capable
judge of human character.
Thereafter, Issac informed Esau, that he had no remaining blessings for
him. The blessing of the physical which were originally intended for him
were already bestowed upon Jacob. The truly spiritual blessings he had
always intended to give Jacob and would still do so. However, Esau persisted
and Issac relented and blessed Esau. The blessing of Esau was not a true
blessing. It was a conditional blessing. In verse 40 Issac states "And
it shall come to pass, when you (Esau) shall break loose and you shall shake
his (Jacob) yoke from off thy neck." Rashi comments that when Israel
will violate the precepts of the Torah then Esau will achieve the blessings
of the physical. Thus Issac did not bestow upon Esau any new blessings
but rather he limited the blessing of the physical which he had previously
given to Jacob. If Jacob uses the physical as a means to achieve intellectual
perfection then he will truly merit the blessings of the physical. However,
if he violates the Torah and seeks the physical as an end, in and of itself,
then Esau will have the upper hand and merit the blessings of the physical.
Upon reflection of the history of our people we can appreciate the authenticity
and veracity of the blessings of Issac as their ramifications have been
manifested throughout the experiences of our nation.