November 28, 2019

30 Chesvan 5780

Rosh Chodesh Kislev

by Tzvi Schnee

An often neglected perspective, regarding the narrative wherein Jacob deceives his father, Isaac by pretending to be Esau, the first born, in order to reappropriate the blessing of the firstborn, is that as an ish tam (wholesome man), he needed to suppress his naturally inclined tendency towards truth, so he could procure the blessing that was rightly his.

Although, traditionally the blessing goes to the first born, Esau did not represent the character traits that would exemplify the positive qualities of Abraham, so, he was not qualified to receive the blessings of the patriarchal lineage, carrying, in effect, the chesed (kindness) and the gevurah (moral strength) of Isaac into the next generation.

“You will show truth (emes) to Jacob and kindness (chesed) to Abraham.” – Micah 7:20

Jacob inherited the qualities of chesed (kindness) from Abraham, and gevurah (strength) from Isaac, balancing the two within the framework of truth. For too much kindness can lead to indiscriminate permisiveness, and an excess of strength can lead to a level of severity that approaches harshness. Truth places both kindness and strength within the service of righteousness.

On the contrary, Esau represented the lower nature of man, subject to the natural instincts. Whereas Jacob was a wholesome man of the tents, Esau, who was a hunter, a man of the fields, was inclined to impulsivity and lack of restraint. Yet, Jacob’s conscience later suffered for his deception, as can be interpreted at one level when he wrestled with an angel; as one modern commentary claims, he was wrestling with his conscience. Only a man committed to inner truth will feel his conscience twinged when acting contrary to truth.

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