Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

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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, so that Yitzchok would 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 certainly wouldn’t abet theft! And certainly not theft from her husband!

This theft, then, couldn’t have been about actually stealing a blessing.

It could, though, have been about making a statement.

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

Sure, 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 possuk: “Esav … sold his first-born rights to Yaakov.”[2]

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

Esav should have honored it. Instead, he disavowed it.

That disavowal is seen in the following incident.

“And Yitzchok called to his elder son Esav……and he told him….let be bless you before I die.’[4]

Yitzchok seemed to be offering Esav the birthright blessing. That offer should have prompted Esav to admit that he wasn’t entitled to the blessing – because he’d sold the birthright to Yaakov.

Esav doesn’t do that but, rather, readies himself to accept the blessing. By doing that, Esav tried disavowing the sale and stealing the blessing.

Esav’s furthers this attempt by later identifying himself to his father as: “Esav, your older son”[5]

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

Which is why Yaakov “steals” the blessing by presenting himself as the first-born.

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

And it was a reclamation that his parents supported.

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

Yitzchok’s support isn’t so unequivocal. It’s there, though, in how Yitzchok reacts to new of Yaakov’s “theft” by saying: “whomever brought me food and was blessed … let him [Yaakov] be blessed.”[7]

Yitzchok, here, isn’t censuring Yaakov for theft. Nor is Yitzchok evincing any disappointment. He’s, rather, validating Yaakov’s theft.[8]

And truth be told, such validation was sensible – given that Yitzchok and Rivka realized that Yaakov was reclaiming his rights.

And yes, we can assume that Yitzchok and Rivka realized this was a reclamation – because we can assume that they knew that Yaakov purchased the birthright.

That assumption emerges from a careful reading of the following pesukim:

“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]

The fact that “everyone called Esav red” indicates that everyone – the entire community[11] – knew about the red bean meal. If so, “everyone” likely knew about the birthright sale that occurred at that meal.

And if “everyone” knew all this, then Yitzchok and Rivka, who certainly followed their children’s lives, also knew all this.[12]

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

Yaakov, then, was right in stealing the blessings.[13]

And his parents supported that right.

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

He paid a price vis-à-vis Esav.

That price was paid in how a theft-enraged Esav threatened: “I’ll kill my brother Yaakov”[14] – thereby forcing Yaakov into exile for twenty-two years.[15]

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

That price was paid when Lavan – who seemingly knew about Yaakov’s “theft” – justified tricking Yaakov by evoking that theft.

It’s the Midrash that sees Yaakov asking Lavan: “Why did you marry me to the older sister not the promised younger sister?” To which Lavan responds: “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 a price vis-à-vis Leah.

That price is paid in a Midrash that sees Yaakov asking Leah: “Why did you deceive me (by letting yourself be switched for Rachel)?” To which Leah responds: “Yaakov, you deceived your father when he asked if you were Esav! And you’re complaining about my deception?” [17]

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 enlarges issues and can 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?

Rabbi Weber is rav and founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey and is Rabbi Emeritus of Toronto’s Clanton Park Synagogue. Please visit his website,, to sign up for his weekly podcast, for information on his live or zoom shiurim. For info about his Montebello community, please email .



[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