Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein in the loving memory of Alta Shula Swerdlov And in merit of Yetta Alta Shula, "Aliya," Schottenstein
Isaac grows old and his eyes dim. He expresses his desire to bless his beloved and eldest son Esau before he dies. While Esau goes off to hunt for his father's favorite food, Rebecca – his wife – dresses Jacob in Esau's clothes, covers his arms and neck with goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father with the food. Isaac suspects that something is amiss and insists on feeling his son. He concludes that the ‘voice is the voice of Jacob, and the hands are the hands of Esau.’ Isaac also mentions that the smell of Jacob’s garments are like the smell of ‘the field that G-d has blessed.’ Isaac then blesses Jacob with ‘the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land’ and mastery over his brother.' The questions cannot be ignored: If Rebecca had a good reason as to why Esau was undeserving of his father's blessings, why couldn't she communicate directly to Isaac? Why couldn't Rebecca ""follow"" the glorious old tradition of Jewish wives who commonly explain to their husbands how wrong they are? Indeed, Rebecca had a good argument against granting the blessings to Esau, one that Isaac would certainly understand. Jacob is ""a wholesome man, a dweller of the tents of study,"" whereas Esau is described as a ""skilled hunter, a man of the field."" Jacob's descendants became the nation of Israel, who granted the world the vision of ethical monotheism, while Esau fathered Roman civilization with its culture of ruthless power and great material achievement. Couldn’t she explain this to Isaac?" Also, what was the uniqueness of the smell of Jacob’s garments? Goatskins actually have a terrible stench! The Talmud tells us that Isaac did not smell ‘Jacob’s garments’ (begadav) rather he smelled ‘Jacob’s traitors’ (bogdav). And this is the fragrance he so enjoyed. This, too, is deeply disturbing. What is so pleasant about the “aroma of traitors?” And why would they inspire Isaac to bless their grandfather Jacob? The great souls and spiritual giants that would emerge from Jacob’s seed throughout history did not suffice to entice Isaac to confer the blessings upon the wearer of the garments; it was only the traitors that moved him so deeply. Why?" "A penetrating insight by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter of Ger (1799-1866) reveals the depth of Rebecca’s wisdom and foresight. Rebecca was seeking a blessing not for Jacob himself, but for Jacob as he was dressed in Esau’s garments. Rebecca knew of the state of many a Jew today: A Jacob who presents himself to the world as an Esau. It was Isaac’s blessings to even this type of ‘betrayer’ that has made the Jewish identity so deep and unshakeable in even the most distant and self-hating Jew. The incredible Midrashic stories of Yosef Meshisa illustrate this point unforgettably.