Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What was Rivka playing at?

It's a good question, no?

It's hard to look at this week’s sedra without scratching your head over Rivka's behavior. Here we have one of the Mothers of the Jewish people, engaging in an act of thievery and deception. She sends her youngest son into his father's death-chamber wearing a disguise, and conspires with him to mislead Yitzchak and rob Eisav. Exactly what were her intentions?

According to Samson Rephael Hirsch, Rivka wanted only to awaken Yitzchak to his older son's lack of suitability for the blessing. Yitzchak envisioned a partnership between his two sons, similar l'havdil to the partnership enjoyed by the Mideivil Popes and Holy Roman Emperor. Those carrying the Eisav gene would manage the material and Yaackov's descendants would provide the religious inspiration and together the Abrahamatic nation would flourish and prosper.

Yitzchak's error was twofold. First, he did not realize that there could be no dichotomy in the Abrahmatic nation between the material and the spiritual. The garbage men and the fieldworkers had an equal share with the scholars and the tent-sitters in the nation's reliigious inheritance. Division between the two realms was impossible. Second, Yitzchak misjudged Eisav in assuming that he was willing to subordinate himself to that religious inheritance and to work for its advancement.

Rivka, like women through the ages, saw everything, and tried mightily to convince Yitzchak that he was in error. When her arguments failed, she resorted to the trick with the goat-skins - not because she hoped to steal the blessing, but because she wanted Yitzchak to see that he could be fooled. She expected Yitzchak to eventually catch-on the charade, and say to himself, "Aha! Just as Yaakov fooled me, so have I been fooled by Eisav." She expected Yitzchak to award the blessing to Jacob willingly and with a clear heart. She did not intend to take it through trickery.

But this was not to be.