On the roof of the Aish center looking down at the Western Wall with Chevra & Davai in 2011

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Torah Thought: Parsha Toldos

Towards the end of the Torah portion of Toldos, Isaac grew old and became blind.  Since he believed that he was coming towards the end of his life, he wanted to bless his sons.  He told his oldest son Eisav to go out and catch an animal to prepare him a meal before the blessing.  Isaac didn’t realize that Eisav was really evil, but his wife, Rebecca, knew it so she pulled the old switch-a-roo on Isaac.  She dressed her younger son Jacob like Eisav, cooked him some food and sent him in to get the blessing reserved for the first born son.  Since Isaac was blind, he thought it was Eisav and blessed Jacob instead.  When Eisav returned and the plan was uncovered, Isaac gave him a different blessing.

I want to take some time to deal with the question of why Isaac went blind.  After all, Isaac was a righteous person so why did he deserve such a fate?

Here are the answers that I found among the Torah commentaries:

1. Middrash: Since Isaac accepted gifts from Eisav and he overlooked Eisav’s evilness, it was like a judge who accepts bribes and is then blinded in regard to justice.

2. Elazar ben Azaria: Since Eisav was wicked, when people saw Isaac walk around in the market place, they would say “hear comes the father of that scoundrel.” Since Isaac was blind, he stayed home and people couldn’t say disparaging things about him.

3. Rashi: Since Eisav married idol worshiping women, the smoke from their idols blinded Isaac.

4. Rashi: At the binding of Isaac, when Abraham attempted to sacrifice him, the angels in heaven were watching over and they stared crying.  Their tear drops went into Isaac’s eyes and caused his blindness many years later.

5. Middrash: Also at the binding of Isaac, when he was on the alter, he looked up and saw the divine presence which caused him to go blind many years later.

6. Rashi: He went blind so that Jacob could get the blessing of the first born.

You may be thinking… well which one is it?

That’s a very valid question, but not a simple one to answer.  We have an idea that the Torah can be understood in 70 different ways so on a certain level, they are all right.

That being said, I’d like to focus on the last answer where Isaac went blind so that Jacob would get the blessing of the first born instead of Eisav.  After all, Jacob was righteous and Eisav was evil, and G-d, obviously, wanted Jacob to get the blessing.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe asks a very simple question.  Even if Isaac didn’t realize that Eisav was evil, wouldn’t have it been better for G-d just to tell Isaac that Eisav is evil and the blessing should go to Jacob instead of having him go blind so this elaborate charade can go down?

He answered the question, telling us that speaking negatively about someone is so bad that it would be better for Isaac the righteous to go blind then for G-d to say “Eisav is evil.” 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thought. The Talmud likewise teaches that it's better for a person to cast himself into a blazing furnace than to embarrass someone publicly. (Bava Metzia 59) My preference is the midrashic opinion that Isaac was blind to Esav's faults but saw his potential for good.