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Why did Esau so desperately want Isaac's blessings?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

When Jacob outsmarted Esau and received his father Isaac’s blessings, Esau was outraged. “He cried out a great and bitter cry, and he said to his father, ‘Bless me too, O my father!’... And Esau raised his voice and wept.” Esau had been anticipating these blessings for many years – contrary to popular misconception, Esau and Jacob were 63 years old when this story happened – and for decades long, Esau had feigned religious observance because he wanted his father to believe that he was worthy of the blessings. He was utterly devastated when he realized that he, the on-the-ball, worldly hunter, had been outwitted by his religious “goody-goody” brother.

It is remarkable that this person who was a murderer, rapist and glutton, was so eager to receive the blessing of a Tzaddik (righteous person). Esau wasn’t out for a large inheritance; after all, Isaac was an elderly, blind person who had nothing to offer other than his blessings. Rather, as someone who was raised in the households of Abraham and Isaac, he was well aware of the value of a Tzaddik’s blessing. Esau was a Jew who was born to a Jewish mother (unlike Ishmael who was born to Hagar the Egyptian), and therefore possessed a Divine soul which imbued him with a strong belief in G-d and the super-natural. His “Jewish heart,” however, did not manifest itself in his immoral lifestyle, which was contrary to all he had learned in his father’s home. He knew what was right, but was unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to live an ethical, spiritual Jewish life.

The Divine plan determined that Jacob, not Esau, receive the blessings. For Jacob was a Jew not only at heart, but in practice as well. As opposed to other religions which are faith-based, the Torah recognizes that faith alone does not allow us to accomplish the mission of revealing G-dliness in this world, and transforming ourselves and the world around us into a Divine abode. Only through actually practicing Torah and Mitzvahs can this goal be achieved.

In a small way, we can all relate to Esau’s dilemma. We know what is proper, but oftentimes lack the strength and willpower to implement that which is proper into our daily lives. We must always remember that only the practice of Torah and Mitzvahs make us to be a receptacle for Divine blessings. Blessings must be earned, and faith isn’t a product of a person’s labor, it naturally exists within every Jew due to the G-dly soul which was given by G-d. Only the hard work of applying this faith in day-to-day life makes a person worthy of all of G-d’s blessings.

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