Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tol'dot

Gen. 26:30-27:27

REBECCA: Foolish old man! Thank God he has a healthy appetite for game, even in his old age. He provided me with the perfect opportunity to prevent the disaster that would come if he allowed his doting love for Esau to blind him to reality. I had the idea of substituting Jacob for his brother when it first became obvious that Isaac could not tell one son from the other in the dim light inside the tent, but the problem had always been how to make the switch. Now Isaac himself had solved it for me.

Please don’t think that I don’t love my older son, but he is a simple, uncomplicated man who acts on a whim, definitely not suited for the responsibilities that should by custom fall upon him as the eldest. Jacob, on the other hand, takes after me and my brother Laban. Even his hesitation came more from his fear of being caught than from any scruples about what I was asking of him. He feared appearing as a trickster to his father, not being one. On my side of the family, we always consider our own self-interest, even when acting for the greater good.

JACOB: All I could think was that my mother had gone mad. How could my father possibly mistake me for Esau, whom he loved so much? Yet he did, although there were a few times I was sure he had seen through the ruse. Esau wasn’t the only one whose sweat was on those furs by the time I was done! I was almost giddy with glee and relief when I emerged and gave my mother the signal that we had succeeded. The next thing I knew, I was being bundled unceremoniously out of the camp and sent on a long visit to Uncle Laban, beside whom I was an innocent babe when it came to manipulation.

ESAU: Maybe I should not have sold the birthright, but what right did my brother have to take advantage of my weaknesses? I would not have done it to him! And the Hittite women – my mother didn’t like them, but would she have liked my cousins Rachel and Leah any better if she had had to live with them? My mother was a queen in our encampment and would tolerate no rivals. I often thought it was a good thing that Sarah was already dead when Rebecca came to marry my father, or there would have been war between those two proud women. And my mother might have been the loser, too!

My sense of betrayal, when I arrived at my father’s side with the stew he had asked for and found that he had given my blessing to my brother, was like a physical blow to the gut. That he had not known me, that Jacob had been able to fool him with my clothing and skins on his hands, was the cruelest part, even more than the loss of the blessing. My howl was more of pain than of rage.

Later I came to see what happened as being for the best, as I was the one who stayed with my parents and cared for them into their old age, a blessing that my brother forfeited. The price that Rebecca paid, although she may have thought the gain worth it, was that she never saw Jacob again.

ISAAC: It was becoming obvious, even to my dimmed eyes, that Esau was not the one to carry on my legacy. First there was the incident with the birthright; oh, yes, I heard about that one! The servants laughed about it for days, how clever Jacob had taken advantage of his brother’s impulsive nature, but to me it showed how cheaply Esau held what I had almost died for. Then there were the wives, with their airs and their lack of respect for us and our ways.

So, when I felt my mortality coming upon me, I sent Esau out to hunt me some game and make me a stew, promising to give him my blessing when he returned. It was now up to God, and to Rebecca, who always believed that God helps those who help themselves. I knew she was listening; she is not so silent as she thinks she is, especially to one whose hearing is heightened in the absence of vision.

The skins were a lovely touch, though; they confused me momentarily.

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