The rabbis and scholars have gone round and round on the question of Yaakov's duplicity, and whether Yitzchak was a knowing but quiescent partner in the deception. There are all the usual arguments-that Yitzchak knew that Yaakov was the better choice than Esav; that Yitzchak simply submitted to what he thought to be Gd's will; that the text of Torah is full of clues or indications that clearly Yitzchak knew that it was Yaakov he was blessing, and not Esav.
If one thinks about it, this could still be construed as a somewhat misogynistic interpretation. Rebekkah conspires with Yaakov to fool Yitzchak, but Yitzchak is not fooled. Once again, the male wins. Or does he?
Who is the winner in all this? Yitzchak, because he went along with the deception knowingly but feigning surprise, so he got the better of his wife, the better of his sons, and still got what he thought was the best end result (there we go with the teleological stuff again)? Rebekkah, because even though Yitzchak knew of the duplicity, she still got what she wanted? Is it Yaakov? He obviously wanted very much to be the one who inherited-he stole Esav's birthright and blessing through trickery, and got exactly what he wanted.
So, who is the loser? Why, Esav, of course. Esav, who thought nothing of Gd, and so little of his own birthright that he gladly sold it for a little food. But is Esav the loser? I sometimes wonder. Oh, he makes a great show of his displeasure of not inheriting and not getting Yitzchak's blessing, but, in the end, he probably gets what he wants- to not be stuck with the responsibility, and to be able to do whatever he wants. He takes the wives he wants. And in a strange twist, knowing he has displeased Yitzchak by marrying two Hittite women, he goes and marries a first cousin, Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael! Yaakov, fearing his brother's wrath, has to run away. But Esav just gets to hang around, have fun, and not have the burden of inheritance. Dig into the mind of Esav, and we might discover that he really got what he wanted all along.
Did Esav get what he deserved? That's a question we must ask. It is true that Esav was warlike, hot-tempered, cared little for Gd, and looked for the easy way out of things. So, in some respects, Esav got what was coming to him. In the other hand, if that is exactly what Esav really wanted in the first place...
It is hard in life, at times, to really determine who the winners and losers are. (That is, if you even believe that there are winners and losers.) The Torah isn't really clear on all this.
Are these our choices in life-to be like Yaakov or like Esav? Lesser of evils, is that it? I hope not.
You know who the real winners are? We are-because we get to learn and benefit from this story. To twist it and stretch it and turn it inside out and upside down in a search for meaning and understanding in our own lives. And if we learn anything from the story of Yaakov and Esav, it's that thing are never that simple!
© 2001 by Adrian A. Durlester
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