Parshas Toldos – The Story Behind the Blessings

By Avner Friedmann

 The Parshah tells us how Yaakov took the right of the firstborn and the blessings from his brother Esav in a way that, on the surface, looks deceitful. But how could Yaakov, the choicest of our forefathers do this? The Holy Zohar[1] states, “One may wonder about some of the deeds of our forefathers, which on the surface may seem deceitful, such as how Yaakov acquired the right of the firstborn from Esav and received the blessings from Yitzchak, however there is a ‘Story behind the Story’”.

Esav fell to his Yetzer HaRa (The Evil Inclination) and was overcome by the power of Satan, who had come in the form of a serpent in the Garden of Eden. Thus Esav became a hypocrite, a rapist and a murderer, spending most of his time pursuing the carnal pleasures of this world. One can imagine the terrible damage to the world had Esav received the right of the firstborn and the blessings of his father Yitzchak, G-d forbid!

The world would have sunken to unprecedented lows of evil, corruption and depravity, even worse than what was originally brought about by the sin of Adam and Chava in the Garden of Eden. The world would have sunken to such a low that there would be no possibility of ever correcting it. Wickedness would totally overpower goodness, G-d forbid, and Esav would have eventually murdered his brother Yaakov and all his descendents, G-d forbid.

This was not something that Yaakov could permit. He therefore had to be proactive and make the first move. In doing so, he changed the course of history and did a tremendous service for all humanity.

According to the Zohar, the serpent of the Garden of Eden manifested in Esav, the soul of Adam was reincarnated in Yaakov,[2] and the soul of Chava was reincarnated in Rivkah[3]. Just like the serpent had deceived Adam and Chava in the garden, so Yaakov, with Rivkah’s help, did likewise to Esav.

Yaakov was a perfect and wholesome man (תם)[4]. He was imbued with the G-dly quality of Tiferet (Beauty), which is the perfect balance between “Kindness” on the one hand, and “Judgment” on the other.  As such, he always tailored his actions to the circumstances, as scripture states[5], “With the kind You act kindly, with the wholehearted You act wholeheartedly. With the pure You act purely, and with the crooked, You act perversely.”

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent had deceived Chava and caused her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Through this, whatever blessings were coming to Adam and Chava were withdrawn and instead curses were visited upon them, causing impurity and ultimately death to come into the world. Because of this, Adam and Chava needed to be “reincarnated” in order to correct this.

The secret of this matter was revealed to Rivkah. She could thus assist Yaakov in overcoming Esav and causing the blessings to revert back to their rightful place. By purchasing the right of the firstborn, Yaakov separated Esav from the holiness of Torah. From that point on, it would be impossible for Esav to ever have complete rule over Yaakov and his descendents.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam had taken Chava’s advice and eaten the fruit of the tree. Here too, Yaakov followed his mother Rivkah’s advice. However, this time she gave him good advice. Rivkah said to Yaakov,[6] “Listen, I heard your father speaking to Esav, your brother, saying: “Bring me game and prepare delicacies for me to eat, and I will bless you in the presence of HaShem before I die.” Rivkah said to Yaakov, “Go now to the flock and fetch two choice kids-goats from there, and from them I will prepare delicacies for your father, as he likes. Then bring it to your father and he shall eat, so that he may bless you before his death”.

The Parshah continues[7]: “Rivkah then took her older son Esav’s clean garments which were with her in the house and clothed Yaakov, her younger son”. Now, these were the very garments that HaShem had originally given to Adam. Over time, they ended up in Nimrod”s possession.[8] The garments had “magical” powers and through them Nimrod became a “mighty hunter”[9]. In his desire for these garments Esav murdered Nimrod. He took the garments, and thus also “became one who knows hunting”[10]. He kept these special garments in his mother care and only wore them for hunting.

When Yitzchak asked Esav for game in order to bless him, Esav rushed out so quickly that he forgot to put on the garments. Because of this his hunt was delayed and took unusually long. Rivkah took advantage of this and put them on Yaakov before he entered Yitzchak’s presence to receive the blessings. Unlike Esav, when Yaakov put on the garments, they produced a wonderful fragrance of the Garden of Eden, as Yitzchak stated[11]: “See, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field that HaShem has blessed”. They were now with their rightful owner.

When eventually Esav came back to receive the blessings, Yitzchak was horrified. He was seized with a great trembling, greater than when he was put upon the altar by his father Avraham. This is because he was shocked by the awesome realization that he had almost bestowed the blessings upon the wrong person.

At that moment a heavenly voice spoke through Yitzchak and said: “…I blessed him (Yaakov), and he shall remain blessed”[12]. Later,[13] when Yaakov wrestled with Satan, Esav’s angel, even he admitted that Yaakov was the rightful recipient of the blessings.

Thus the Zohar states that, for the sake of correcting ourselves and the world around us, ultimately, everything comes out justly and fairly. Still and all,[14] in every generation we need to correct a portion of Adam and Chava’s original sin, until ultimately, it will be fully corrected and evil will be abolished from the world forever. May this come about speedily in our days, Amen.

[1]  Zohar Toldot 138a&b, 142a-143b, and 145a-146a.

[2] “Yaakov’s beauty was like the beauty of Adam”.

[3] 26:28: “And Rivkah loved Jacob”.

[4] Toldot 25:27.

[5] Psalms 18:26-27

[6] Toldot 27:6-10.

[7] Toldot 27:15-17.

[8] Yalkut Shimony Bereshit Perek 27.

[9] Bereshit 10:9.

[10] Bereshit 25:27.

[11] Bereshit 27:27.

[12]  Bereshit 27:33.

[13] Bereshit 32:30.

[14] Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 70 138b.

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