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    Blessing Esau – Tol’dot

    There are so many questions that need to be asked about the family dynamics of Isaac and Rebekah.

    One of the least commonly asked questions has to do with Isaac’s intention to give a blessing to Esau.

    Surely Isaac knew what sort of person Esau was, a wild, rough man with hardly any refinement or spirituality. Surely Isaac knew that Esau was not likely to respect the family tradition and be an example to his descendants.

    How then could Isaac even think of bestowing “the blessing of Abraham” upon such an unworthy son?

    Yes, we recognise that Esau knew how to win his father over with sweet talk and tasty venison. But was Isaac really so easily deceived?

    The fact is that there were two types of blessing at Isaac’s disposal, and his original plan was probably to give Esau the materialistic blessing (corn, wine and oil) and to give Jacob the spiritual blessing (Divine approval and historic destiny).

    Rebekah, however, disagreed with her husband’s plan. She saw that the material and spiritual had to go together. As Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah says, Im ein kemach ein Torah: im ein Torah ein kemach – “Without flour there is no Torah: without Torah there is no flour” (Avot 3:21).

    Without a material foundation, Torah will struggle to survive; but without Torah ethics, material prosperity will lack meaning.

    Rebekah felt her husband had to be taught this lesson and indeed to see that it would be no service to either son to get only one aspect of the blessing.

    The Midrash suggests that Isaac’s eyes were finally opened and he realised what a mistake he might have made by preferring Esau, even though he had only intended to give Esau a material blessing.

    Looking at the story this way there is a lesson for parents in every generation.

    Limiting their children to material blessings short-changes them. Thinking that they can live on spirituality alone is also to do them no service. They need both gashmiyut and ruchniyut.

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