Prepared by Rabbi Stephen Texon
The central episode in this week's portion of Toldot has been troubling to Rabbis and scholars for centuries. How can our third greatest Patriarch manage to cheat his way into a birthright in exchange for a bowl of soup, and steal the choice blessing intended for the firstborn? This supreme Patriarch, Jacob, who later on wrestled with G-d and prevailed, and whose name was changed to Israel, be able to get away with such deception? Of course his mother, Rebecca was complicit in the scheme and influenced him, but Jacob jumped at the idea with alacrity! Why?
There are many children, especially twins, who are not only rivals in life, but who compete for the affection of a particular parent. In the case of Jacob, he longed for the approval and affection of his father Isaac, and "stealing" the birthright from his older brother Esau over a bowl of soup was not enough. This is why he jumped at the idea of deception with such alacrity.
There are stories of the Holocaust when parents and children were separated and taken to Auschwitz, wherein a child found tremendous comfort in facing the horrors of the camps, simply because a particular parent who had previously withheld love to that child finally poured forth the deepest love that enabled the child to face even the fears of death in the camps.
Psychiatrists offices are filled with cases of sons and daughters who longed in their youth and beyond for the approval of a parent that was never received, or convincingly received and who suffered greatly in life.
And so, Jacob with the help of his mother was willing to deceive in order to get that approval, in the form of the choicest blessing from his father Isaac.
This successful deception was not achieved without cost however, because what goes around comes around! Jacob suffered from future deceptions that were done to him as we read on in the Torah, the most famous of which was the switching of Leah for Rachael as his first wife by Laban and also the deception of his sons who deceived and lied to him that his favorite son, Joseph, was killed by an animal, after they had dipped his beautifully colored coat in goat's blood.
In spite of all this deception it was G-d's plan that Jacob would be the STAR Patriarch and father the 12 tribes of Israel, be worthy of his father's and G-d's richest blessings, and would carry the name of ISRAEL proudly before the whole world as a beacon of light, and a promise of hope and peace for mankind!
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