"And may Elokim give you from the dew of the Heavens and
from the fat of the land, and much corn and oil" (Bereishis
Rashi explains that the use of the Name Elokim, which denotes
the trait of Divine judgment, implies that in Yaakov's case, receiving
the blessings is contingent upon deserving them. "To Eisov however,"
Rashi continues, "he said, `Your dwelling should be among the
fat [places] of the land'; whether righteous or wicked, He will give
this to you. Shlomo Hamelech learned from Yaakov when he built the
Beis Hamikdosh and prayed that in the case of Jews who come
to pray there, `You should give each man in accordance with all his
ways, according to Your knowledge of his heart' (Melochim I 8:39),
for a Jew will acknowledge Divine justice [even if his request is
not granted] and will not argue, whereas for gentiles who lack faith
he said, `And You shall hear from Heaven . . . and do whatever the
stranger calls to You' (ibid. posuk 43). Give him what he asks
for, whether he deserves it or not, so that he shouldn't complain
Many of the Rishonim are amazed at this. Were the blessings
to have been given the other way around, with Yaakov receiving Eisov's
blessing to be maintained from the fat of the land whether righteous
or not, Klal Yisroel would not have suffered so much in the
course of the terrible exile and all our troubles R'l. However,
Yitzchok did not give the blessings this way and Chazal stress that
the principle governing Klal Yisroel is, "And You should
give each man in accordance with all his ways." Why is this?
The answer is that were every Jew to receive the goodness of this
world whether or not he deserves it, he would spend his time pursuing
pleasures and would forget his true purpose, which is to prepare himself
for Olom Haboh. What do the good things of this world give
to a person? If he fattens himself with fine meat and smokes drugs
-- is there any point to this?
The pleasures of this world are like creditors. The more a person
is drawn after them, the more they demand from him, may Hashem protect
us! This is why Shlomo Hamelech prayed,"And You should give each man
in accordance with all his ways!"
The Hidden Blemish
"And Eisov said in his heart" (Bereishis 27:41). We
find the idea of speaking in one's heart six more times in Tanach:
"And Yerovom said in his heart"; "Novol said in his heart";
"And Homon said in his heart" -- these three are examples
of Chazal's teaching that, "Reshoim are controlled by their
hearts." There are three more which show that "Tzadikim
are in control of their hearts": "And Dovid said to his heart";
"And Channoh was speaking to her heart"; "And Doniel took
it to heart."
I want to begin discussing Yaakov and Eisov by pointing out that although
the Torah speaks about them at great length, devoting an entire parsha
to them, it is not as easy as we imagine to gain a correct understanding
of Eisov's true nature. He was, of course, Eisov horoshoh,
however the Torah does not deal with ordinary, simple people [and
Eisov's wickedness was not the straightforward lowly and depraved
type]. The tzaddikim mentioned in the Torah were very great
tzaddikim and the reshoim were very great reshoim
yet they were unlike the reshoim we see today who are wicked
because of their foolishness. Eisov's wickedness was not discernible
and it is the Torah that reveals his true nature to us.
When we learn that Eisov asked Yaakov, "Feed me now with some
of that red stuff," which Rashi explains by noting that the word
hal'iteini which Eisov used, is used for forcing food down
the gullet of an animal, we picture to ourselves Eisov with his mouth
wide open like a camel, and Yaakov pouring a lot of food into it!
Although the truth is that it did happen this way, we ought not to
let our imaginations trick us into thinking that it was as simple
as it seems.
Chazal tell us that Eisov was overcome by bulmus, a craving
for food, and under such circumstances, halocho allows a person
to be fed unclean food, for his life is really in danger. Eisov had
noble lineage and even though Yaakov would not have conducted himself
in such a way [even if he were suffering the same danger, it would
be wrong to think of Eisov as a savage].
In the haftorah (Malachi 1:2-3) we read, "I have loved
you, says Hashem . . . Is Eisov not Yaakov's brother? Yet I hated
Eisov and I loved Yaakov . . . " HaRav Isaac Sher zt'l,
points out that were Eisov simply to have been a "regular"
rosho, as we are used to imagining him, this posuk would
not be informing us of any particular sign of love towards Klal
Yisroel. Of course Hashem would hate Eisov. Why should He love
him? We see therefore, that though Eisov was truly a rosho,
we would not have been able to tell, had the posuk not revealed
this to us.
"And Eisov raised his voice and wept" (Bereishis 27:38).
He was then sixty-three years old. Picture an elderly man, over sixty
years old, coming to the Steipler zt'l, to ask for a brocho
and being refused. The old man then starts to weep over not having
been blessed . . . we would certainly say that this old man is a very
special person, for he recognizes the worth of a blessing from a tzaddik.
The Zohar further tells us that Eisov's head is buried in the
Cave of Machpeloh because it was as great as Yaakov's head, and it
was just his heart that was no good.
Chazal also tell us that in the future, Eisov will don a tallis
with tzitzis and techeiles and will go and sit among
the tzaddikim and that despite the spirit of holiness that
rests upon them, the tzaddikim will be unaware that this is
Eisov the rosho. Clearly, because they allowed Eisov to enter,
the mal'ochim will also not have realized who he is. This will
continue until Hakodosh Boruch Hu Himself comes and says, "Rosho!
Get out of here!" and Eisov will respond, "How am I a rosho?"
Hakodosh Boruch Hu will then say, "You said, `The days
of mourning for my father will approach and I will kill Yaakov my
brother'," and Eisov will answer, "I did not say that"
. . . To answer with such chutzpah! It's utterly amazing!
Hakodosh Boruch Hu will say to him, "I am Hashem, who searches
hearts and appraises [the thoughts of the] kidneys and I say that
you did say it, as the posuk says," And Eisov said in his
heart, the days of mourning for my father will approach . . . "
In other words, Eisov was indeed unaware of having said such a thing
but he had thought it and Hashem revealed to him that he had
thus stumbled in the mitzvo of honoring his father. This is what Chazal
mean when they tell us that, "Reshoim are controlled by
their hearts." Deep down in Eisov's heart lurked the thought that
when his father died, he would avenge himself against Yaakov Ovinu.
What kind of honor was that for his father, to be awaiting his death?
In the Merit of One Mitzvo
In his commentary to the last mishnah in Makkos, "Rabbi
Chananya ben Akashyah says, `Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted to provide
Yisroel with merits, so He gave them an abundance of Torah and mitzvos,'
" the Rambam writes, "It is one of the principles of faith
in Torah that when a person fulfills mitzvos correctly and fittingly,
and does not combine any kind of worldly intention whatsoever with
his fulfillment, doing the mitzvos solely out of love for Hashem and
for His sake . . . he thereby merits life in Olom Haboh. Rabbi
Chanina thus says that since there are many mitzvos, it is impossible
that during a lifetime a person will not have fulfilled at least one
of them once properly, exactly as it should be, and for having fulfilled
that one mitzvo, his soul will live [in Olom Haboh]."
The Rambam is apparently telling us that it is impossible to merit
Olom Haboh through doing a mitzvo unless it is performed in
purity and perfection. The reason for this is that all there is in
Olom Haboh is truth and if some personal motivation is involved
in doing a mitzvo, it is no longer a manifestation of the truth. The
mishnah thus means, "Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted lezakos,
to provide Yisroel with merits" -- the word lezakos
being related to zikuch and zakkus, meaning purity i.e.
He wanted to ensure that a person would fulfill a mitzvo at least
once in a lifetime with the necessary purity of intention -- "therefore
He gave them an abundance of Torah and mitzvos."
Eisov too had one such mitzvo -- honoring his father -- and
he thought that he had fulfilled it to perfection, which he did seem
to have done, as we see in the gemora (Kiddushin), "Rabbon
Gamliel said,`I have honored my father all my life, yet I have not
attained one hundredth of the honor that Eisov the rosho accorded
his father.' " Yaakov too, was worried on his own account because
of Eisov's merits for kibbud av. He thought that Eisov had
fulfilled this mitzvo perfectly. So did the mal'ochim who,
thinking that he had earned Olom Haboh for this mitzvo, let
Eisov in to sit among the tzaddikim.
After all however, Eisov remained a rosho. Since he lacked
Torah and mitzvos, which were given to provide merit to Klal Yisroel
[by ensuring that they fulfill at least one mitzvo in purity], there
was an imperfection in his kibbud av, for he said in his heart,
"The days of mourning for my father will approach . . . "
Hakodosh Boruch Hu therefore said to him, "Get out, rosho!
You can't acquire Olom Haboh through this mitzvo because you
didn't fulfill it to perfection!"
Taking the Truth to Heart
In support of his explanation, the Rambam adds, "This is the meaning
of the question which Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon asked, `What is
my standing regarding Olom Haboh?' His respondent answered,
`Has any deed presented itself to you?' In other words, have you had
any opportunity to fulfill a mitzvo properly? Rabbi Chananya replied
that he had an opportunity to fulfill the mitzvo of tzedokoh
to the highest possible degree of perfection. Through this deed he
merited Olom Haboh."
We learn about Rabbi Chananya's act of tzedokoh at the end
of maseches Kallah. "Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said, `A
talmid chochom may not place his money in a purse in which
tzedokoh money is kept, unless the one appointed over it is
of the caliber of Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon. It was said that once,
Rabbi Chananya confused money that had been collected for Purim with
tzedokoh money. He sat and wondered, "Woe is me! Perhaps
I have become liable for death from Heaven!' "
Let's consider what an ordinary person would have done in this situation.
He'd simply have distributed all the money to tzedokoh. Rabbi
Chananya however was worried that he would be punished just for having
gotten the monies confused.
"While he was sitting and wondering, an executioner came and said,
`Rabbi, it has been decreed that you will be wrapped up in a sefer
Torah and burned with it.'
"He stood up and he surrounded him with bundles of twigs and lit
the fire. The fire grew cold and kept away from him.
"Shocked, the executioner got up and said, `Rabbi, are you the
one whom they decreed should be burned?'
"`Yes,' he replied.
"`So why is the fire going out?'
"He said, `I have sworn in the Name of my Owner that it should
not touch me until I know whether it has been decreed upon me from
Heaven. Wait a while for me and I will tell you.'
"The executioner was sitting and wondering, `Why are these people,
who have control over their own lives and deaths, under the yoke of
the gentiles?' He said, `You get up, and the authorities can do whatever
they want with me.'
"He said, `Empty one! A heavenly decree has [already] been accepted
with regard to me. If you do not put me to death, the Almighty has
many other executioners. There are many bears, many tigers, lions
and wolves, and many snakes and scorpions that can wound me. [Yet,]
nonetheless, [it is true that] the Almighty will ultimately punish
you for shedding my blood.'
"The executioner realized that this was true. He jumped and cast
himself into the flames and his voice could be heard from within the
fire, `As you die, I shall die and there I shall be buried! As you
live, I shall live!'
"A heavenly voice immediately went out and said, `Rabbi Chananya
ben Teradyon and his executioner are summoned
to life in Olom Haboh!' "
Eisov did not accept the yoke of fulfilling the mitzvos properly,
so the one mitzvo which he did fulfill was unable to protect him,
for "Reshoim are controlled by their hearts." The posuk
(Bereishis 28:8-9) says, "And Eisov saw that the Canaanite
daughters were evil in his father's eyes and he went to Mochalas the
daughter of Yishmoel -- Chazal say that she was given this name
because Eisov was pardoned for all his sins, for he married her according
to the halocho, and Chazal also tell us that Eisov intended
to convert . . . in which case, why do we still refer to him as Eisov
the rosho? The answer can be found in the continuing words --
`And he married Mochalas . . . in addition to his wives.' Chazal tell
us that if he had divorced his first wives, he would have been called
`Eisov the tzaddik,' but he didn't do so. He married Mochalas
as well, merely adding, as Chazal tell us `one more evildoer to the
ones he had.' This teaches that if a person wants to elevate himself,
he must first remove the evil from himself and then do good, as the
posuk (Tehillim 34:15) says, `Turn from evil and do good.'
Tzadikim, on the other hand, are in control of their hearts,
as we see from the pesukim, `And Channah was speaking to her
heart'(Shmuel I 1:13), `And Dovid said to his heart' (Shmuel
I 27:1), `And Doniel took it to heart' (Doniel 1:8). May
Hakodosh Boruch Hu help us to control our hearts, enabling
us to withstand the tests of Olom hazeh!