This is the story of Yishaq son of Avraham. Avraham fathered Yishaq. 20 Yishaq was forty years old when he married Rivqah the daughter of Betu'el the Aramaean of Paddan-Aram, and sister of Lavan the Aramaean. 21Yishaq prayed to Yahweh on behalf of his wife, for she was barren. Yahweh heard his prayer, and his wife Rivqah conceived. 22But the children inside her struggled so much that she said, "If this is the way of it, why go on living?" So she went to consult Yahweh, 23and Yahweh said to her: There are two nations in your womb, your issue will be two rival peoples. One nation will have the mastery of the other, and the elder will serve the younger. 24When the time came for her confinement, there were indeed twins in her womb. 25 The first to be born was red, altogether like a hairy cloak; so they named him Esau. 26Then his brother was born, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so they named him Ya`aqov. Yishaq was sixty years old at the time of their birth. 27When the boys grew up Esau became a skilled hunter, a man of the open country. Ya`aqov on the other hand was a quiet man, staying at home among the tents. 28Yishaq preferred Esau, for he had a taste for wild game; but Rivqah preferred Ya`aqov.
29Once, when Ya`aqov was cooking a stew, Esau returned from the countryside exhausted. 30 Esau said to Ya`aqov, "Give me a mouthful of that red stuff there; I am exhausted!" hence the name given to him, Edom (Red).
31Ya`aqov said, "First, give me your birthright in exchange." 32 Esau said, "Here I am, at death's door; what use is a birthright to me?" 33Then Ya`aqov said, "First give me your oath." and he gave him his oath and sold his birthright to Ya`aqov. 34 Then Ya`aqov gave him some bread and lentil stew; he ate, drank, got up and went away. That was all Esau cared about his birthright.
Two children born, twins, to continue in the covenant given by Yahweh to Avraham passing through Yishaq. This is not really the "story," "begettings" or "generations" of Yishaq. It is the accounts, toledot, how the line of Yishaq moves through time and events. There are ten toledot in Breshiyt(:2.4; 5.1; 6.9; 10.1; 11.10; 11.27; 25.12; 25.19; 36.1; and 37.2).26.34 When Esau was forty years old he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemat daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35These were a bitter disappointment to Isaac and Rebekah.
The two seem to be fighting it out in the womb, and it is to continue after birth according to meaning Yahweh provides to Rivqah. They will not be just rivals, but separate, distinct (yipparedu) from each other. One will be of ahunter gatherer type of the open country, while one will adopt the more of sedentarism content among the flocks and tents. Is this an economic prophecy reflecting these two types of peoples and the change in prominence to sedentary society over the hunter-gatherer peoples? There is a noticeable dichotomy in scripture between agricultural settled life and wilderness life. One will come to have advantages over the other, and the name ya'aqov from heel (aqov) has the range of meaning allowing "opportunist"or "having/ taking the advantage." One will wonder whether that the social history of needs has as much to do with the story as providence.
`Esaw is a very capable man, but he still comes to need what Ya`aqov has an agricultural product---lentils as high in protein as many meats, and containing more nutrients. Lentils are easier to find and kill. Maybe this incident records the shift from hunting to agriculture. One is dependent upon what encounter brings moment by moment, while the other plans, structures, and not only takes the advantage but creates the opportunities in a way that continues beyond the immediate situation in preparation for the next ones.
If we choose not to look at the passage as anthropology, we will look at it in a feministic way also, at least recognizing who the real agent of the covenant is in the account---Rivqah.
Yahweh answersRivqah when she searches (darush) for the meaning of "this" going on in her ('im ken, lamah zeh anoki!?). Yishaq, like many men who do not (or prefer to not) understand the "joo-joo" or female matters, including pregnancy, seems oblivious, while Rivqah needs to take care of business. It is she who will sacrifice to assist the message of Yahweh that the older (literally, larger) son will be mastered by the smaller/younger son.
Too often this account is taken as tale of usurpation of rightful position. I do not believe it to be so. These short verses are the pivotal point of the key to understanding our parasha.27.1When Isaac had grown old, and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he summoned his elder son Esau. "Son!" he said, and Esau replied, "Here I am." 2He then said, "Look, I am old and do not know when I may die. 3Now take your weapons, your quiver and bow; go out into the country and hunt me some game. 4Make me the kind of appetising dish I like and bring it to me to eat and I shall give you my special blessing before I die."
Yishaq has reached an age when he is enjoying the youth and strength of Esaw, perhaps the way the fathers of ball players relive their school days.
5Rebekah was listening while Isaac was talking to his son Esau. So when Esau went into the country to hunt game for his father, 6Rebekah said to her son Jacob, "I have just heard your father saying to your brother Esau, 7 "Bring me some game and make an appetising dish for me to eat and then I shall bless you in Yahweh's presence before I die." 8Now, son, listen to me and do as I tell you. 9Go to the flock and bring me back two good kids, so that I can make the kind of special dish your father likes.10Then take it to your father for him to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies." 11Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, "Look, my brother Esau is hairy, while I am smooth-skinned.12If my father happens to touch me, he will see I am cheating him, and I shall bring a curse down on myself instead of a blessing."13But his mother replied, "On me be the curse, my son! Just listen to me; go and fetch me the kids." 14So he went to fetch them and brought them to his mother, and she made the kind of special dish his father liked.15Rebekah took her elder son Esau's best clothes, which she had at home, and dressed her younger son Jacob in them,16covering his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skins of the kids.17She then handed the special dish and the bread she had made to her son Jacob.18He went to his father and said, "Father!" "Yes?" he replied. "Which of my sons are you?"19Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your first-born; I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of the game I have brought and then give me your soul's blessing." 20Isaac said to his son, "Son, how did you succeed so quickly?" He replied, "Because Yahweh your God made things go well for me."
Yishaq is losing his life and instead of being conscious of what is best for the covenant he is concerned for food and willing to impart his blessing for it. Does he not remember Esaw's wives that he detests? Rivqah is left to make sure the covenant is protected and she is willing to take any curse that Yishaq will level. Ya`aqov will follow his mother's instructions. We will never know how aware Ya`aqov is of Yahweh's word to Rivqah concerning the brothers and the direction in which blessing will continue. Yishaq accepted convention of the time and honor the customs concerning primogentiture in spite of his grandchildren being raised by women foreign to Yahwism. Rivqah will sacrifice the love of her husband, and one of her sons, and use deception as well implicate her second son in order to funnel everything to Ya`aqov who was designated by Yahweh over the firstborn. Yahweh, Yishaq's god did make, by His word to Rivqah, things go well for Ya`aqov.
Are Rivqa hand Ya`aqov deceitful or do they understand that man is in partnership with Yahweh and can effect events to fulfill what Yahweh intends? The one we would expect to do this seems to be distracted. The one favored by Yishaq has already handed the birthright to Ya`aqov it is true and much is made of it. But Esaw was ready to disregard and throw away the first-born position not just to his brother, who would safe-guard it, but he also threw itaway by marrying gentiles who would destroy it. The covenant would have died among these three, Esaw, Basemat, and Y'hudit.
We so often remember the men of the Tanak. But here it is Rivqah who is the heroine of the covenant, just as Sarah was before her. We forget too often their greatness.
21 Isaac said to Jacob, "Come closer, son, so that I can feel you and be sure whether you really are my son Esau or not." 22 Jacob went closer to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, "The voice is Jacob's voice but the arms are the arms of Esau!" 23 He did not recognise him since his arms were hairy like his brother Esau's, and so he blessed him. 24 He said, "Are you really my son Esau?" And he replied, "I am." 25 Isaac said, "Serve it to me, so that I can eat my son's game and give you my special blessing." He served it to him and he ate; he offered him wine, and he drank. 26 His father Isaac said to him, "Come closer, and kiss me, son." 27 He went closer and kissed his father, who sniffed the smell of his clothes. Then he blessed him, saying: Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a fertile field which Yahweh has blessed. 28 May God give you dew from heaven, and the richness of the earth, abundance of grain and wine! 29 Let peoples serve you and nations bow low before you! Be master of your brothers; let your mother's other sons bow low before you! Accursed be whoever curses you and blessed be whoever blesses you!
So what did Ya`aqov steal? Nothing. The blessing given to Ya`aqov was not Yishaq's to give. Yahweh gave this blessing to 'Avraham, it is Yahweh's. And Yahweh told Rivqah that it would be the second son (by minutes), Ya`aqov, who was to receive it. Yishaq was simply a vehicle of transferral, and, if he truly thought that it was Esaw standing before him, a vehicle that could have wrecked the entire covenant. (Remember Rivqah the next time the backseat driver is meted out criticism.) Rivqah stepped forward to overturn this threat and also divert the great shame that would have fallen on Yishaq her beloved husband as the accomplice in destroying Yahweh's Purpose.
30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and just as Jacob was leaving his father Isaac, his brother Esau returned from hunting. 31 Hetoo made an appetising dish and brought it to his father, "Father, please eat some of your son's game and then give me your special blessing." 32 His father Isaac asked, "Who are you?" "I am your first-born son, Esau," he replied. 33 At this Isaac was seized with a violent trembling and said, "Who was it, then, that went hunting and brought me the game? I finished eating it just before you came; I blessed him, and now blessed he will remain!" 34 On hearing his father's words, Esau cried out loudly and bitterly and said to his father, "Father, bless me too!" 35 But he replied, "Your brother came by fraud and took your blessing." 36 Esau said, "His name should be Jacob right enough, for he has now supplanted me twice. First he took my birthright, and look, now he has gone and taken my blessing! But", he added, "have you not kept a blessing for me?" 37 Isaac replied to Esau, "I have already made him your master; I have given him all his brothers as servants, I have given him grain and wine to sustain him. So what can I do for you, son?" 38 Esau said to his father,"Can you bless only once, father? Father, bless me too." Isaac remained silent, and Esau began to weep aloud. 39 Then his father Isaac spoke again and said: "Far from the richness of the earth and the dew of heaven above, your home will be. 40 By your sword you will live, and your brother will you serve. But when you win your freedom, you will shake his yoke off your neck." 41 Esau hated Jacob because ofthe blessing his father had given him, and Esau said to himself, "The time to mourn for my father will soon be here. Then I shall kill my brother Jacob."
And so we have the human, non-Yahwistic view presented before us. 'I am the possessor of covenant, it resides with me given by god, and so it is mine to give who I wish whether they understand it or not and how I see fit. 'And in response, the one who really has the blessing must have received it by guile, against custom, but 'I will take what is mine by violence by divine right transferred to me by my fathers. His yoke was placed uponme by Yahweh by his own word, but I will shake that yoke off, I will be free to rule myself in my own way without restriction. I will see to the destruction of Ya`aqov and take the blessing by wiping him away!'
What better way to see the true covenant maintained by those who will sacrifice all for it, and another covenant of Esaw supported by persecutions, murders, pogroms, inquisitions, holocausts, and far greater deception than anything ever imagined and far surpassing the one perpetrated by Rivqah.
42 When the words of Esau, her elder son, were repeated to Rebekah, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, "Look, your brother Esau means to take revenge and kill you. 43 Now, son, listen to me; go at once and take refuge with my brother Laban in Haran. 44 Stay with him a while, until your brother's fury cools, 45 until your brother'sanger is diverted from you and he forgets what you have done to him. ThenI shall send someone to bring you back. I do not want to lose you bothon one day!"
46 Rebekah said to Isaac, "The Hittite women sicken me to death. If Jacob were to marry a Hittite woman like these, one of the local women, what would there be left in life for me?"
Here are the statements to which only a wise Yahwist mother or father can relate. When the text says Hittite, it is saying that although these women have joined themselves to a Yahwistic family, they remain outsiders, pagans. The sick feeling in her stomach comes from watching her future in her mind as she watches generations of her children who are raised in rebellion to the King of the Universe.
I applaud Rivqah's "deceit" in obedience to maintaining the covenant and taking her part to effect it. It is our duty, all of us to imitate it even bringing criticism to ourselves. I would gladly deceive to save my child; I would do anything, I believe, almost without thinking. Would we not be willing to lie, cheat,steal to save our children and their children's children from becoming gentiles without regard of Yahweh, children of Esaw? But Rivqah took the chance of losing the love of one child over another based on their willingness to hold to the side of covenant. Could we? Remember Rivqah, and be like her. Because of her, we are here.Shabbat Shalom,