Of Blessings and Deceit

Nov 8, 2015

וַיְהִי כִּי־זָקֵן יִצְחָק וַתִּכְהֶיןָ עֵינָיו מֵרְאֹת וַיִּקְרָא אֶת־עֵשָׂו בְּנוֹ הַגָּדֹל וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו בְּנִי וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו הִנֵּנִי׃

When Yitzchak was old and his eyes were too dim to see, he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” He answered, “Here I am.”

Genesis 27:1

וְעַל־חַרְבְּךָ תִחְיֶה וְאֶת־אָחִיךָ תַּעֲבֹד וְהָיָה כַּאֲשֶׁר תָּרִיד וּפָרַקְתָּ עֻלּוֹ מֵעַל צַוָּארֶךָ׃

Yet by your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; But when you grow restive, You shall break his yoke from your neck.”

Genesis 27:40

Blind Isaac reaches a ripe old age and decides it is time to bless his beloved son, Esau. He sends the young man to hunt and prepare him a feast so that he may be moved to give his blessing. Overhearing Isaac’s instructions, Rebecca calls Jacob and tells him to bring her two goats for her to prepare in place of Esau’s feast, so that Jacob may go in his brother’s place to receive Isaac’s blessing. At first reluctant and fearing he may get caught, Jacob resists, but ultimately he follows his mother’s instructions.


Jacob brings the delicacies his mother has prepared to his father, who is immediately suspicious of how little time it took him to return. Jacob cites God’s interference, further rousing Isaac’s suspicions. However, when he feels the goat hair Rebecca had wrapped around Jacob’s bare arms, he is confused, for he says, “The voice is that of Jacob, but the arms are those of Esau.”


Isaac accepts Jacob’s feast, then offers him a blessing. He asks God to grant him the bounty of the land and power over the offspring of his brother. He asks that those who curse him be cursed and those who bless him be blessed.


When Esau returns to discover his father has already given his blessing away, he is incensed, and Isaac is frightened at having been deceived. Esau begs his father for another blessing, plaintively asking if he hasn’t something in reserve. At first Isaac insists he has given everything he can offer to Jacob, but he musters up one blessing for Esau: that he, too, shall enjoy the bounty of the land, and that he shall live off his sword. Although Jacob is destined to rule over him, there will be times, Isaac says, when Esau shall prevail.


Esau is filled with hatred for his brother over the subterfuge, and vows to kill him when their father is gone.


The blessing of “dews of heaven and the fatness of the earth” is unique to the blessings which Isaac bestows. The Israel Bible cites the mystical teachings of the Zohar in saying that this blessing is the one that has sustained the Jewish people throughout the millennia. According to Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, it is Isaac’s blessing to give because he is the only one of the forefathers who never left the land of Israel.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

We will see in the next passage that Isaac blesses Jacob one more time, this time fully aware that he is speaking to Jacob. Why, then, do you think he tells Esau he has no more blessings to give?

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