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The Story of the Modern Jew

Why Did Rebecca Dress Jacob in Esau's Clothes? Because She Was Thinking About the Jew Who Would Say Goodbye to the Shtetl

47 min

Class Summary:

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.

Please leave your comment below!

  • K

    Kalmen -8 years ago

    I could not find this Sefas Emes. What year was it?

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    • Anonymous -3 years ago


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  • T

    theresa -11 years ago

    black eggs and white cheese
    G-d bless israel and a blessed shabbat to you and yours.

    firstly, i really enjoyed the opening of the parsha and yankel's innocence. and the greek 'sages' reminds me of some recent happenings. like the eagle or hawk( i think it was an eagle but definitely a bird,) news that came out in the arutz sheva. and the saudis thought it was a spy bird and their planes flew up and captured it. it was from a study lab in israel and so was the chip to make the bird. and similar incidents on shales or sharks..

    Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, said, that the goodness in sufferings and hardships is the higher good, but because of our pain we fail to see it as such.

    Your lesson on the cheese from white and black goat comes out the same reminds me of the tzaddik, R Meshulam Zusya of Anipoli who wrote he learned a number of methos of serving G-d from a thief:

    a. he works quietly without others knowing.

    b. he is ready to place himself in danger.

    c. the smallest detail is of great importance to him.

    d. he labors with great toil and alacrity.

    e, he is confident and optimistic. and the last one is my favorite.

    f. if he does not succeed the first time, he tries again and again.

    thank yo u for a wonderful lesson. and for reaching out to us non jews as well. blessings.

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  • S

    shloime -11 years ago

    hay muchas veces que  desaparece rápido la traducción y no da tiempo a leer

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  • J

    JRS -11 years ago


    La verdad increíble la página!! Llena de enseñanzas, muy bien traducida, interesante, etc

    Espero puedan conseguir muchas donaciones!! Se las merecen!!!!!!!!!

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  • M

    MARCELO -11 years ago

    Etas clases son la luz de mis pasos a traves de las semana. Temas profundos e inspiradores presentados de una manera clara y práctica.

    Ya estoy aguardando la de la próxima semana.

    Muchas Gracias ! 

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Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • October 29, 2010
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  • 21 Cheshvan 5771
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Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein in the loving memory of Alta Shula Swerdlov And in merit of Yetta Alta Shula, "Aliya," Schottenstein

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