Yaakov Was Right but He Suffered Nonetheless

In our parsha, we read about Yaakov’s theft of the blessings.

We read that Yitzchok planned on endowing his elder son, Esav, with the special blessing that was traditionally accorded to the eldest child.

We also read that Rivka thwarted her husband’s plans. She did that by disguising her younger son, Yaakov to make Yitzchok assume that he was Esav. This resulted in Yitzchok blessing Yaakov, in lieu of Esav. [1]

The questions raised by this story are self-obvious.

Firstly, how could an intangible blessing – which was all about davening – be stolen?

Secondly the righteous Yaakov wouldn’t steal anything, let alone a holy blessing! And he certainly wouldn’t steal something from his father!

And the righteous Rivka certainly wouldn’t abet theft! And certainly not theft from her husband!

This theft, then, couldn’t have been an actual theft.

It could, though, have been a statement.

And that would be a statement that Yaakov is entitled to the first-born’s blessing.

Yes, Esav - not Yaakov – was Yitzchok’s first-born. Yaakov, though, still deserved the firstborn’s blessing. And that’s because Esav had sold his birthright - which included the special blessing - to Yaakov. It’s the following verse: “Esav … sold his first-born rights to Yaakov.”[2]

This sale was legally bona-fide and binding.[3]

Esav should have respected that legality.

Instead, he disavowed it. That’s seen in the following incident: “Yitzchok called to his elder son Esav… let me bless you before I die.”[4]

The fact that this blessing was offered to the “elder son, Esav” indicates that this was a birthright blessing. Esav should have responded to that offer by admitting that he wasn’t entitled to the blessing - because he’d sold the birthright to Yaakov.

Esav, though, didn’t do that. He, rather, readied himself to accept the blessing.

By doing that, Esav publicly disavowed his sale of the birthright. It’s a disavowal that Esav furthers when he later calls himself the: “older son”[5]

Esav’s disavowal needed to be countered. And the best way to counter? That’s for Yaakov to present himself as the first-born – just when his father is blessing the first-born.

That’s why Yaakov “steals” the blessing.

Yaakov’s theft, then, was a reclamation of his rights.

And it was a reclamation that his parents supported.

Rivka’s support is unequivocal. It’s seen when she abets Yaakov’s theft by disguising him as Eav: “With the goat skins, Rivka covered Yaakov’s arms and neck (to trick Yitzchok into thinking Yaakov was the hairy Esav).”[6]

Yitzchok’s support isn’t as unequivocal as Rivka’s. It’s there, though, in how he reacts upon hearing about Yaakov’s “theft” by saying: “whomever … was blessed … let him [Yaakov] be blessed.”[7]

Yitzchok, here, isn’t censuring Yaakov for theft. Nor is Yitzchok evincing disappointment.

He’s rather, validating Yaakov’s theft.[8]

And, truth be told, why wouldn’t Yitzchok validate Yaakov’s “theft” - given that Yaakov was just reclaiming his rights?

And yes, Yitzchok - and Rivka, for that matter -  likely knew that Yaakov was reclaiming his rights. Why? Because Yitzchok and Rivka likely knew that Yaakov had purchased the birthright.

Those likelihoods are abetted by an analysis of the following verses:

“And [Esav] sold his first-born rights to Yaakov. And Yaakov gave Esav … red beans... [9] and because of those red beans [everyone] called Esav red.”[10]

These verses note that “everyone called Esav red” because of the red bean meal. That indicates that everyone – the entire community[11] - knew about the red bean meal and, presumably, the birthright sale that occurred at that meal.

If “everyone” knew of the sale, then Yitzchok and Rivka, who certainly followed their children’s lives, also knew of the sale.[12]

Which is why Yitzchok and Rivka supported Yaakov’s “theft”

Yaakov, then, was right – and had parental support - in stealing the blessings.[13]

Right as Yaakov was, he still paid a price for his theft.

He paid that price vis-à-vis Esav.

That price was paid when the theft-enraged Esav threatened: “I’ll kill … Yaakov”[14] and, thereby, forced Yaakov into twenty-two years of exile.[15]

Yaakov paid that price vis-à-vis his father-in-law, Lavan.

That price was paid when Lavan – who seemingly knew about Yaakov’s “theft” – used that theft as an excuse for tricking Yaakov into marrying ten wring sister.

It’s the Midrash that tells us how Lavan justified that trickery. The Midrash notes that Lavan justified himself by telling Yaakov: “Didn’t you do the same, by pretending to be your brother when stealing the blessing? I’m doing to you, what you did to others.”[16]

And Yaakov paid that price vis-à-vis Leah.

It’s the Midrash that recorded what transpired between Yaakov and Lah when Yaakov realized that he marred the wrong sister. The Midrash see Yaakov asking Leah: “Why did you deceive me (by letting yourself be switched for Rachel)?”And it sees Leah responding: “Yaakov, you deceived your father when he asked if you were Esav! And you’re complaining about my deception?” [17]

Yes, Yaakov was right. But he still paid a price.

Because that’s the way it is. When we upset others – even when we’re right in doing so - we pay a price.

We may have reason to reprimand a child. But we’ll pay a price in how that reprimand alters our relationship with that child.

We may have reason to take somebody to beis din. But we’ll pay a price in how beis din imbroglios destroy finances, health and good names.

We may have reason to discuss a difficult issue with someone. But we’ll pay a price in how those discussions can enlarge issues and make them intractable.

Circumstances may compel us to action. When they compel that, then we must take action – and pay whatever price.

But circumstances don’t always compel action.

We needn’t reprimand for every infraction.

We needn’t fight for every dollar.

And we needn’t discuss all interpersonal issues.

We often can look away - and then not pay a price.

If we can look away, isn’t it better to do that?

Isn’t it better to not pay a price?

[1] Bereishis 28:17-36

[2] Bereishis 25:31-34.

[3] Radak Bereishis 25:31-34 25:31, Rashi Bereishis 27:36

[4] Bereishis 27:1-4

[5] Bereishis 27:33. See Tanchuma Toldos 8 for an explanation as to why Esav is relatedly

identified this way.


[7] Bereishis 27:15

[8] Rashi, ad. loc. See Onkelos, ad. loc.

[9] Bereishis 25:33-34 see Ramban ad loc.

[10] Bereishis 25:30

[11] Ha’amek Davar ad. loc.

[12] Bechor Shor Bereishis 27:2 See Ramban 27:30

[13] Bereishis 27:16

[14] Bereishis 27:42

[15] Bereishis 27:41

[16] Ma’asei Hashem Ad loc.

[17] Tanchuma VaYaitzai 11

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