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Was Yitzhak a Blind Fool?

By Rabbi Daniel Friedman

Yitzhak is getting old.  Fearing that his final days are approaching, he calls upon his favoured son, Esav, desiring to bless him.  Rivkah hears Yitzhak’s instructions to his son and intercepts the call.  She quickly commands their son, Yaakov, to imitate his brother and seize the blessings.

We know that Yitzhak was blind.  But how could our wise patriarch be so foolish?  How could he neglect to see which of his sons was worthier of the holy blessings?  Surely, he could not have been so clueless as to the foibles of his elder son!

The Alshich hakadosh explains that Yitzhak knew exactly who his two sons were.  He knew that Yaakov loved learning Torah and Esav loved a good piece of steak.  However, he reasoned that if Esav enjoyed the pleasures of this world and Yaakov enjoyed spirituality, the easiest solution to providing for both of his children was to offer Esav the bounty of this physical world and save the pleasures of Heaven for Yaakov.  Therefore, first he called Esav to bless him with all the material wealth of this physical world.  Later, he would call upon Yaakov to bless him with Heavenly wealth.

Nevertheless, Rivkah disagreed. She wanted Yaakov – as heir to the family’s values – to receive the blessings of both this world and the World to Come.  In her mind, the Children of Israel deserved abundant reward for all their righteous efforts.  What’s more, she reasoned, if we were to receive reward only in the next world, people would feel disenchanted with good behaviour.  Imagine if all the good people, destined to be rewarded in Heaven, endured lives of misery in this world.  Who would buy into such a system?  Very quickly people would get the message that crime pays and that the wicked prosper!  And so Rivkah decided that she would have to capture the blessings of both the physical and spiritual realms for her holy son, Yaakov.

Was Rivkah right or was Yitzhak?

Clearly, Yitzhak’s subsequent warm interaction with Yaakov, as he blessed him and bid him farewell upon his departure to Aram, demonstrated his acknowledgment of Rivkah’s wise determination.

Judaism is not an ascetic religion.  We don’t believe in living a life of physical and material deprivation.  Hakadosh baruch hu wants us to derive pleasure from His wonderful universe. And that means all levels of creation, from the lowest physical plains to the highest spiritual realms.

But more importantly, enjoying this world is the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy and blessing.  You are a great-grandchild of Yaakov!  As a result of the cleverness of your mother Rivkah, your father Yitzhak blessed you with material, physical, and spiritual bounty!  You are entitled to enjoy both this world and the next in unlimited abundance!  May you be blessed with all the blessings of Heaven and Earth!

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