There is a glaring question at the heart of this week’s parasha. Rebecca instructed Jacob to dress up as his brother, Esau and ‘steal’ the blessings from his father, Isaac.
If Rebecca thought Esau was unworthy of receiving the blessing, why didn’t she communicate directly with her husband? There were good grounds for her to object to Esau. His cravings drove him, not so much his spiritual self. He was a hunter-fighter, a ‘man of the field.’ His life was to kill or be killed. As such, he was ready to sell his birthright for a pot of lentils. By contrast, Jacob’s focus was his inner self. He was the tent dweller, devoted to spiritual pursuits. He was clearly a worthy heir to the spiritual heritage of Abraham and Isaac.
Why didn’t Rebecca make her argument to her husband?
It seems that she wanted Jacob to receive a blessing specifically when he was masquerading as Esau.
Let me suggest an answer based on ideas of the Chidushei HaRim and Rabbi J B Soloveitchik.
Rebecca foresaw that there would be times in history when Jacob’s descendants would have to ‘wear Esau’s clothing.’ When that would happen, they would need to have the blessing of the Patriarch to support them, to remind them who they truly were. Of course, Jacob acting as himself, deserves and receives blessing. It is when Jacob is forced to act Esau-style that he is in genuine need of a blessing.
There have been many occasions in history where Jews in the diaspora have had to act in an un-Jewish way in order to avoid danger. For example, in the 12th century, Maimonides, at an early period in his life, had to blend in to the Muslim background to survive the Almohad persecutions.
But ‘Esau’s Clothing’ has a broader connotation as well. The State of Israel is absolutely committed to peace with its neighbours. However, there are times when its army has had to engage Esau style. When Hamas callously uses civilians, children and hospital patients as human shields, the IDF, with heavy heart, has had to respond with inevitable collateral loss of life. But it is the only way to deal with an enemy that seeks to destroy us. We mourn the loss of any and every innocent life. At a time like this, we are in desperate need of Isaac’s blessing to remind us who we are and what our eternal values are. Despite the negative coverage in some media outlets, we are proud of the extraordinary lengths the IDF has gone to avoid civilian casualties. As Colonel Richard Kemp has said, the IDF has gone further than any other army in the world under similar circumstances.
We hope and pray for the time that Israel can take off those garments of war and live in peace with all.
Oseh Shalom Bimromav Hu Ya’aseh Shalom Alenu Ve’al Kol Yisrael Ve’imru Amen.