TOLDOS (Genesis, 25:19-28:9) — “Walking the Talk”

In an unprecedented act of “Divinely endorsed deception,” Jacob embarks upon a mission to fool his father. Jacob is an honest and gentle man, while his brother Esau is a rogue and a fraud. Esau has managed to fool his blind father Isaac into thinking that he is worthy of receiving his blessing. Isaac asks his firstborn son to prepare him some food and bring it to him. Isaac tells Esau that when he comes back with the meal, Isaac will bless him.

Rebecca understands the true nature of her wicked son Esau. She has been given the prophetic message that this miscarriage of justice cannot be permitted to take place. She places goatskin on Jacob’s smooth-skinned arms so that he will feel like his hairy brother Esau. She assures him that under these unusual circumstances, it is permitted to mislead his father into thinking that he is Esau. In fact, according to the Midrash Tanchuma, one of the reasons that Isaac lost his eyesight was so that Jacob would be able to receive his blessing.

Still, Jacob was uncomfortable with the ruse. He understood that this was necessary. His mother was a prophetess, and she said that this had to be done. Indeed, later on, when Isaac finally understood the whole story, he himself agreed that the blessings appropriately belonged to Jacob. Yet, pretending to be someone he wasn’t didn’t sit well with Jacob.

Esau had a very gruff way of speaking that Jacob refused to imitate. “PLEASE get up,” (Genesis, 27:19) he said, when he brought some food to his father. (We see in verse 31, Esau’s demand, “let my father get up,” that the word “please” doesn’t seem to be part of his vocabulary.) When Isaac asked how Jacob was he was so quick in preparing his meal, Jacob credited G-d for his success. G-d, too, was apparently not part of Esau’s regular vocabulary. Jacob avoided saying anything to his father that was a blatant lie. He just couldn’t do it.

Isaac was suspicious. Who WAS this young man who had brought him food, expecting a blessing? He invited his son to come closer so he could feel him. The goatskin disguise worked. The young man’s arms were hairy, like Esau’s. And yet . . . it just seemed a little . . . off. The manner of speaking just didn’t sound like Esau’s. Esau didn’t talk that way!

“The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” (Ibid, 22)

The Kli Yakar explains that Isaac was trying to resolve this contradiction. He interprets Isaac’s question as, “which son is trying to fool me? Either the voice is the voice of Jacob, and he has his hands disguised, or the hands are the hands of Esau, and he is speaking in a more refined way than usual.”

What was Isaac’s conclusion? He didn’t recognize him, because his hands were hairy like Esau’s, and he blessed him. (Ibid, 23)

When the voice says one thing and the hands say another, the hands speak louder than words.

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It is painful when we see our brethren act in an inappropriate manner. Occasionally we hear of Israelis who respond to Arab terrorism by engaging in terrorism of their own. They will justify their actions by quoting from the Torah that the Land of Israel has been given to us. Their mistake is that you can’t act like Esau and pretend to be as righteous as Jacob. If you talk like Jacob but act like Esau, your hands speak louder than your words.

Occasionally we hear of charitable institutions that “stretch” the law in order to enhance their ability to do good. The end, they feel, should justify the means. The dean of my alma mater was approached with a “sweetheart deal.” A potential contributor offered to give the yeshiva a ten thousand dollar donation in exchange for a twenty thousand dollar receipt. The yeshiva would receive a very nice donation, and the donor would secure a very hefty deduction. He was told to take his money elsewhere. If you talk like Jacob but act like Esau, your hands speak louder than your words.

We as Americans can all be proud of the way our country is fighting the war in Afghanistan. Who ever heard of dropping food packages to the population of the country we’re fighting against? We’re trying to kill our enemies! Who cares if a few civilians get killed in the process?!

We do. It’s not good enough to speak against evil and to fight against evil. We must make sure that we ourselves do not become evil. If you talk like Jacob but act like Esau, your hands speak louder than your words.

It’s not good enough to talk the talk. You also have to walk the walk.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

“The So-Called ‘Rabbi’” 

I don’t look down on people who don’t share Torah Judaism’s view of our obligations to G-d.  I try very hard not to put down Jews who believe differently than I.  I believe, quite simply, that in most cases, they have not had the opportunity to learn and to come to understand what Torah is really all about.

But one thing that really bugs me is when people misrepresent Torah Judaism.

Perhaps you read about the travesty that took place in  Washington,  DC last week.

Read More.

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“Something Smells Rotten in the State of Beersheba” (2009)

… The blessing of a holy man like Isaac carries a great deal of weight… Esau no longer possessed the legal status of the firstborn.  He was not entitled to Isaac’s blessing.

 … Rebecca set out to save Isaac’s blessing for Jacob … She placed goat hides on smooth-skinned Jacob so he would feel like his hairy brother if Isaac touched him.  She dressed him in Esau’s special garment, which had once belonged to Adam.

 The ruse went well…

 when he realized that he had blessed the “wrong” son, he saw Gehinnom (loose and largely inaccurate translation: “hell”) open up under Esau…

Read more.

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“Like Father, Like Son” (2008)

…  Abraham had been married to Sarah for decades without children.  Then she was abducted for a short time by Abimelech, the Philistine king.  A short time later, Sarah was pregnant.  It didn’t take much for the “Yentahs” in the neighborhood to start spreading nasty rumors as to the paternity of Isaac.

In order to stop the rumors…

Read more.

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“Closed Eyes and Closed Mouths” (2006) 

Abraham had a total of eight sons.  However, most of them did not represent the future of Israel.  Abraham passed his legacy on to his second son Isaac …

Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.  Who would be the standard bearer of the descendents of Isaac?

Esau was perhaps the greatest con man who ever lived.  He managed to pull the wool over the eyes of his father Isaac … his mother, however, was not impressed…

Read more.

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“Red Beans and Redskins” (2003) 

… In my 20+ years as a rabbi, I have learned that there are certain “safe” topics. (E.g., loving your fellow man and giving charity) Some topics are more “iffy,” (Sabbath observance and Kashruth) while others are downright volatile (intermarriage and “terminating” pre-born children). Many listeners and readers want a rabbi to inspire and uplift them, but only as long as he minds his own #$%&*#@*! business.

… there have been times that I’ve managed to get lots of people upset with me. Today’s topic fits into that category. So, I hope you’ll read this with an open mind. If you agree, that’s great. If you disagree, there’s always next week! 🙂 …

Read more.

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“An ‘FFB’ Marries a ‘BT’” (2002)

… They were an unusual couple…

His father was a respected scholar. Her father was known to his neighbors as a degenerate. He had attended the finest Yeshiva. She was self-taught. In his youth, he had been insulated from the evils of the outside world. She had lived in the outside world.

His family welcomed her. Her family wasn’t thrilled about the marriage. She had told them that she was marrying him whether they liked it or not.

Could this marriage work?…

Read more.

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“Walking the Talk” (2001)

In an unprecedented act of “Divinely endorsed deception,” Jacob embarks upon a mission to fool his father. Jacob is an honest and gentle man, while his brother Esau is a rogue and a fraud. Esau has managed to fool his blind father Isaac into thinking that he is worthy of receiving his blessing…

Rebecca understands the true nature of her wicked son Esau. She has been given the prophetic message that this miscarriage of justice cannot be permitted to take place. She places goatskin on Jacob’s smooth-skinned arms so that he will feel like his hairy brother Esau. She assures him that under these unusual circumstances, it is permitted to mislead his father into thinking that he is Esau…

Still, Jacob was uncomfortable with the ruse. He understood that this was necessary. His mother was a prophetess, and she said that this had to be done… Yet, pretending to be someone he wasn’t didn’t sit well with Jacob…

Read more.

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“Double Trouble” (2000) 

…One Mitzvah that was very important even to a scoundrel like Esau was honoring his father; he would never do anything to hurt Isaac. He would wait patiently for his father’s death before murdering his brother. But why did he say, “The days of mourning for my father are coming”? Why didn’t he just say, “When my father dies, I’ll kill Jacob?” Why the emphasis on mourning?…

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on November 27, 2003 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

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