Much Ado About Nothing – Was the risk worth the reward?

 Esau was meant to get this blessing from his father, Isaac (Bereishis 27:28-29):

“And may the Lord give you of the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth and an abundance of grain and wine”.

וְיִתֶּן־לְךָ֙ הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים מִטַּ֨ל הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ וְרֹ֥ב דָּגָ֖ן וְתִירֽשׁ

 “Nations shall serve you and kingdoms shall bow down to you; you shall be a master over your brothers, and your mother's sons shall bow down to you. Those who curse you shall be cursed, and those who bless you shall be blessed."

יַֽעַבְד֣וּךָ עַמִּ֗ים וְיִשְׁתַּֽחֲו֤וּ (כתיב וישתחו) לְךָ֙ לְאֻמִּ֔ים הֱוֵ֤ה גְבִיר֙ לְאַחֶ֔יךָ וְיִשְׁתַּֽחֲו֥וּ לְ֖ךָ בְּנֵ֣י אִמֶּ֑ךָ אֹֽרֲרֶ֣יךָ אָר֔וּר וּמְבָֽרֲכֶ֖יךָ בָּרֽוּךְ


But because of the ill-intentioned conniving of Isaac’s wife Rebecca and the deceit of his son Jacob, that blessing was not conferred upon Esau.  It was given to the usurper, Jacob the heel grabber.

Some question arise:

Was the conspiracy and lying really worth it? Except for Those who curse you shall be cursed, and those who bless you shall be blessed.", I don’t think so.  It seems to me that Isaac wanted to confer on his beloved son Esau a blessing fit for a man of the field, a blessing suitable for a successful farmer, like father like son.

Was the risk worth the reward?  By stealing from his brother Esau, Jacob earned Esau’s hatred and put his life in danger.  The potential fallout from the ill-advised scheme was that if Esau had been able to do accomplish killing Jacob, where would we be today?

Then let’s consider the character of Jacob’s mother, Rebecca.  She is not very different from her thieving brother, Lavan.  And she is not smart.  By her machinations, she put Jacob at risk.  The “Toldot”, the generations of the family of Nachor, Abraham’s brother and Isaac’s uncle, do not amount too very much.  On Shabbat evening when we bless our children: “May you be like…”, I would think twice about including Rebecca with the other Matriarchs.

 We are lucky that despite his blindness, Isaac knew what he was doing.  He certainly exhibited foresight in blessing Jacob as he did: (Bereishis 28:3-4):

“And may the Almighty God bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and you shall become an assembly of peoples”.

וְאֵ֤ל שַׁדַּי֨ יְבָרֵ֣ךְ אֹֽתְךָ֔ וְיַפְרְךָ֖ וְיַרְבֶּ֑ךָ וְהָיִ֖יתָ לִקְהַ֥ל עַמִּֽים

“And may He give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your seed with you, that you may inherit the land of your sojournings, which Hashem gave to Abraham."

וְיִתֶּן־לְךָ֙ אֶת־בִּרְכַּ֣ת אַבְרָהָ֔ם לְךָ֖ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ֣ אִתָּ֑ךְ לְרִשְׁתְּךָ֙ אֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ מְגֻרֶ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֥ן אֱלֹהִ֖ים לְאַבְרָהָֽם

And here we are in the Land today, recipients of that blessing.

As an aside consider alternative narratives had Jacob not traveled north and taken a wife from his Aramean family, but instead traveled south to his Uncle Ishmael:

At Bereishis 28:1-2 Jacob is told to go to his Great Uncle Bethuel, and there take a wife from among his Uncle Lavan's daughters.

Hypothetically,  Jacob could have been told to go to his Uncle Ishmael's, and take a wife from among Uncle Ishmael’s daughters.

Remember that Ishmael had received a blessing from Hashem at Bereishis 17:20 in which he would be fruitful, increase in numbers and be the father of 12 princes.  As for Bethuel and his thieving son Lavan there is no such blessing.  On its face then, going to Ishmael seems the better deal.

If Jacob had found his soulmate in Uncle Ishmael’s house, and if Hagar turned out to be Pharaoh’s daughter as the Midrash says, then all kinds of good things could have happened. 

 OK, I know: If my Grandmother had a beard she would be my Grandfather.  Let’s end this here and now.