Prophesy leads to family strife in the family of Yitzchak. He himself loves the older of his two sons, Esav. Rivkah, on the other hand, loves Yaakov. She has a prophesy that tells her that her favorite son will rise to prominence over the other (25:23). When it comes time for Yitzchak to give the blessing of the first born, Rivkah devises a way for her favorite to receive the blessing, and to fulfill the prophesy. She tells Yaakov to put goat skins on his arms so that when Yitzchak touches him, he will be hairy, like his brother Esav. The ruse works, and Yaakov receives the blessing of the first born. Esav is enraged, and resolves to kill his brother. When Rivkah tells Yaakov to run away to her brother’s home, she tells him “Stay with him for a few days (27:44).” Of course, Yaakov stays with Lavan for more than “a few days.” He stays with him for twenty one years. Rivkah never sees her favorite son again. Is Rivkah being punished for her part in the deception? 

There is another time that Yaakov is seemingly punished for his deception. He used goat skins to convince his father that he was Esav, his brother. Later, he is also deceived with a goat by his own children. When his children sell his favorite son, Yosef, into slavery, they stain the coat of many colors with the blood of a goat to show that their brother was killed by a wild animal. Yaakov lives most of the rest of his life in mourning over Yosef. 

The Midrash paints Esav as an unsavory character. When Rivkah was pregnant with the twins, they “ran around in her belly” causing her great pain, and so she prayed for relief and understanding. The Midrash  says that when Rivkah would pass houses of Torah study, Yaakov would run inside her with excitement, and when she passed idolatrous temples, Esav would run with excitement. When Esav sold his birthright to Yaakov, he saw Yaakov cooking a lentil stew, and to ask for a bowl, he used the words haliteini na min haadom haadom hazeh (25:30).” This can be translated as “Pour some of that red red stuff down my gullet!” The word haliteiniaccording to Rashi, is the word used for feeding animals. Esav was an animalistic brute. Rashi also points out that Avraham died before Esav’s birth so as not to see his grandson fall into degenerate ways. Esav was not a worthy successor to Yitzchak. 

Perhaps, then, Esav was unworthy of the birthright and of the blessing of the first-born. This being true, combined with Rivkah’s prophesy that Yaakov should achieve prominence over his brother, it might seem to justify the deception. But however unworthy Esav was of inheriting his grandfather’s legacy, he was wronged, and the Torah shows the people who wronged him suffering the consequences. Is the Torah moralizing? Telling us that the ends do not justify the means? Or is the Torah holding people of higher spiritual caliber to a higher moral standard? Rivkah and Yaakov are both prophets. Yaakov was the Torah scholar, and the one who merited the vision of the ladder reaching heaven. Rivkah and Yaakov were both spiritual exemplars. Spirituality without morality is empty. The Torah demands that we achieve both simultaneously. 

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving, and a Shabbat Shalom! 

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