Sometimes parents are blind. We can be blind to the blessings and failings our children. We want the best for them and, of course, we KNOW what is best for them. Sometimes, when one parent does not see, the other sees clearly. That is our story this week. Yitzhak is blind to the strengths and weaknesses of his two sons. He sees his strong, outgoing, warrior son Esav as the wise choice to become leader of the tribe, to receive the blessing of tests and lessons. He sees his softer, gentler, quiet son Yaakov as the weak choice. He does not see the wily ways of Yaakov blossoming into wisdom. He only sees the hairy strong arm of Esav who will bring meat to the table.
Rivkah sees things differently. She will use the wily ways of Yaakov to secure the blessing of tests and lessons for him. She sees that in the future, the thorny path of Yaakov’s guile will blossom into the thirteen petalled rose(1) of wisdom for the tribe.
Esav has shown his short-sightedness by selling his soulful soul-food birthright to his brother for physical sustenance. This is not the one to lead a people to holiness. And so, Emah(2) Rivkah devises a plan. Yaakov puts on the outer garb of the mighty Esav and Yitzhak, blinded by the might gives Yaakov the blessing/challenge of leadership. Yaakov is promised the dew of Heaven, the ‘do’ of G. If he can teach people the path of blessing, then they will be blessed, but if people can only find the path of curses then they will be cursed. The blessing is the challenge.
There is no getting around the fact that wily ways become thorny thoroughfares on the path to wisdom. This too is part and parcel of the blessing/challenge of Yaakov.
Yitzhak says as much to his older, warrior son Esav. The traditional translation of Gen. 27:35 is: “Your brother came with cleverness and took your blessing!” And the root ‘RMH’ blossoms into a thornbush; ‘Mirmah’. Some will translate this as deceit and delusion. One is aimed outward the other inward. Others will call Mirmah shrewdness, which can be shallow or deep. Rivkah sees the depth that will be, but Esav in his shortsighted seething, sees only the slight against him by his brothers slight of hand.
A father’s torment at the tears of his child, brings Yitzhak to give a blessing to Esav. The blessing starts on a similar path to that of Yaakov, but roars with an anguished anger as he calls out: “By your sword shall you live!” The blessing contains the curse, for if one lives by the sword others must die by the sword.
And so two brothers are given the blessing/challenge according to their ways. And the trails they will follow lead both to the heights and depths of human path.
(1) see the book of the same name by Adin Steinsaltz
(2) Emah means mother