By Rabbi Nussbaum
VOLUME 98 NUMBER 8
December 4, 2020
Kislev 18, 5781
Candlelighting Time 4:17 PM
Yaakov escapes from the house of Lavan only to encounter his nemesis, Eisav and his entire army. Although he sent Eisav a magnificent series of gifts intended to honor him, he is nervous about a potential battle looming and therefore prepares himself for that possibility as well. The night before their encounter, Yaakov combats Eisav’s ministering angel and successfully defeats him although suffering a slight wound. He imposes upon the angel to validate the blessings that he received from Yitzchok. Although at first obstinate, eventually he concedes. We find also that when Yaakov does meet Eisav, his brother also acknowledges Yaakov’s rights to the blessings. Additionally, when Yaakov is finally returning to his father, Hashem apprises him of a name change which is essentially consummating that the blessings now are totally and officially his! Also, at the time when he received the blessings, Yitzchok realized after the fact that Yaakov had indeed sneaked in, nonetheless, he conveyed the blessings upon him. Therefore, we now realize that Yaakov had endorsement of the blessings four times. Was this truly necessary?
The Midrash states that until Eisav acquiesced and fully agreed that the blessings belonged to Yaakov, they were not totally in his possession. Didn’t Yitzchok transmit them, so why were they not fully accepted until later?
The Vilna Gaon makes a startling comment that all the benefits we have received and will receive in this world and the World to Come all stem from the blessings that Yaakov received from his father! And without those blessings we would be totally and unequivocally lost. This certainly requires a deep and thorough explanation.
Rivka as she was undergoing tremendous pressure from the internal struggle of Yaakov and Eisav received a prophecy from Shem and Ever, the prevailing Torah giants of the day, that there would be two competing cultures, that of the nation of Israel and the counter-philosophy of Eisav denying and defying our validity to exist. Our mission is to combat those forces that threaten to destroy us and subjugate them, allowing no room for concession. Indeed, any comprising stance serves to weaken our solidarity and promotes the ascension of Eisav. Therefore, total defeat of the opposition is vital for the blessings to remain constant and secure by us. Eisav in totality, both his worldly existence and his potential to elevate his spiritual self must submit to our dominance. Hence, we needed an across the board agreement.
However, S’fas Emes points out that Hashem dramatically orchestrated that the blessings would come in a ‘second-handed’ fashion thereby mitigating Yitzchok’s actual participation in the blessings, allowing Hashem to be the direct conveyer of the blessings. Therefore, it was necessary to Hashem to also ‘sign’ the affirmation that solidly established the blessings as fully belonging to Yaakov.
Perhaps based upon this we can now understand when it states that Hashem referred to Yaakov as “El”, that designation suggesting the over-all power and control that he now exercised. And that is truly the consummation of the blessings since even Hashem is placing Yaakov in this position of full control and dominance, therefore the blessings indeed are safeguarded and in his and our possession.
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
When Eisav was offered the gifts from Yaakov, he declined saying that he has more than enough. This is the attitude of those who spend their lives wining and dining always pursuing a lifestyle of increasingly fulfilling their physical passions.