Monday, November 28, 2016

The Tent and the Field

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

The commentators ask: How could Yitzchak have intended to bless Esav? Did he not know his own son? Some commentators explain that he overlooked Esav’s deeds because he loved him, while others say that Yitzchak hoped to cause Esav to repent through the blessings.

However, most commentators believe that Yitzchak knew Esav very well, and Rivka misunderstood his intentions. Yitzchak never intended to give Esav the special status of Am Yisrael, because he knew that this is appropriate for Yaakov only. Therefore, when he thought that he was blessing Esav he only bestowed upon him earthly blessings: "May G-d give you of the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth." (Bereishit 27:28) On the other hand, when he blessed Yaakov he said: "May he grant you the blessing of Avraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may possess the land of your sojourns which G-d gave to Avraham." (28:4) Yitzchak deliberately reserved the blessing of Avraham and of Eretz Yisrael for Yaakov. However, Rivka thought that Yitzchak was planning to bestow the blessing of Avraham upon Esav, and therefore strived to prevent it.

Yet, within this explanation lies a deeper meaning. Perhaps Rivka knew perfectly well that Yitzchak had reserved the material blessing for Esav, and the spiritual blessing for Yaakov. Even so, she still disagreed with him. The ideal of the Jewish nation is a combination of different and opposing forces. It is impossible for everyone to sit in their tents and study Torah, just as it is impossible for everyone to work in the fields. Obviously, some will deal with the material needs of the nation, while others will carry the spiritual banner of the Torah and tend to the religious needs. However, we need to know what the purpose is and what the means are for achieving that end.

In the human body, most of the limbs perform physical functions, while thinking is reserved for the head. It is obvious that the head is the most important part of the body, yet it is also clear that the head cannot function on its own, and the entire body is one organism. This is how the nation works, as well. Both those who deal with the material needs and those who deal with the spiritual needs are aware that each side operates on behalf of the other, and neither side can function on its own. However, it is still important that the material blessings are used for idealistic causes.

Yitzchak thought that Yaakov and Esav would build the house of Israel together. Yaakov would study Torah in his tent, and Esav would support him in the field. Chazal say that the Torah was given in Sivan, which is served by the constellation Gemini (twins), because the Torah was meant for the twin brothers Yaakov and Esav. Rivka objected to this because she believed that only Yaakov was capable of encompassing both domains. Esav would never understand the purpose of receiving the material blessing, and would ultimately twist it into an end of its own.

This is reflected in the words of Yitzchak when he blessed Yaakov saying: "May G-d give you of the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth." The dew of the heavens is mentioned first, and only afterwards the fatness of earth. On the other hand, he said to Esav: "Behold of the fatness of the earth shall be your dwelling and of the dew of heavens from above." For Esav the fatness of the earth comes first because it is more important. "By your sword you shall live" Yitzchak told Esav, yet to Yaakov he said: "The voice is Yaakov's voice, but the hands are Esav's hands." The brother of the Vilna Gaon said: "When the voice is Yaakov's voice, you can join to it Esav's hands; but for Esav the hands are the purpose."

Yitzchak understood his mistake when Yaakov came in and he smelled the scent of paradise on his clothes. He then said: "See, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field which Hashem had blessed." Even a field can smell like paradise. However, when Esav came in he saw hell open up under him.

"Go now to the flock and fetch me from there two good young kids of the goats." (Bereishit 27:9) Chazal teach: "They are good for you and they are good for your children. Good for you – since you achieve the blessings through them. Good for your children – since through them their sins are forgiven on Yom Kippur." (Bereishit Rabbah 68:14) This refers to the two goats, one to be sacrificed to Hashem and one to be cast away as a scapegoat. Only one who is able to enter into the kodesh Hakodashim can sacrifice the scapegoat outside the Temple, in the field. Esav, who is not connected to anything holy, also does not deserve the field.

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