Saturday, November 24, 2012

Concerning the Sins of the Avot: How should Yaakov have responded to his mother Rivkah?

Here's a question from the Parsha which I would like feedback on. Today I was giving a Dvar Torah in my shul presenting the "pshat" approach to Yaakov's actions of Rabbi Moshe Shamah (see http://judaicseminar.org/bible/vayese1.pdf and http://judaicseminar.org/bible/vayese2.pdf) and others (see Rabbi Eitan Mayer's Emet Le-Ya’akov) that Yaakov was not born a man of Emet but had to grow into Yisrael, the man of truth. This is based on a Lookjed discussion on Dealing with the Sins of the Avot that I was involved in almost 11 years ago.

One aspect of this approach is the reading of Lavan's deceiving of Yaakov into marrying the older daughter Leah instead of the younger Rachel as a punishment mida k'neged mida for Yaakov's own deception of his father Yitzchok into giving him the berachot instead his older brother Esav. This punishment sets the stage for much if not all of the events of the second half of Sefer Breishit and really much of the rest of Tanach since Yaakov's marriage to Leah and Rachel results in constant strife and rivalry first amongst his wives and then between his sons the Shevatim and later between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

The question I was asked is how should Yaakov have responded to his mother Rivkah when she first gave him the idea for this deception? Should he have gone along with it? My initial answer is that he should have said no. If the berachot were meant for him, he would have received them anyways; he should have waited and not attained the berachot from his father through a deception. Had he stood up to his mother, the course of history would have been changed.

But then I started thinking... Is it so easy to answer this way? Maybe Yaakov, the Ish Taam, simple man, would never have become Yisrael, the Ish Emet, man of truth, had he not gone through these trials and tribulations. The Netziv in Harchev Davar (Parshat Toldot, 27: 1) has an essay that touches on this in which he presents an alternative highly original approach to why Yaakov had to receive the berachot in this way.

Bottom line, my question can be summarized based on a character from the popular TV series Heroes which I have become addicted to watching on Amazon Prime. If you could bend time and space like Hiro Nakamura, would you go back to meet Yaakov right before he stole the berachot and convince him not to? Would this have been good for Yaakov? Would this have been good for the Jews? (Assuming there would be Jews minus the events during Yaakov's sojourn with Lavan.) I welcome your responses to this.

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