Toldos 5778


Yitzchak Avinu plans to confer the Brachos on Eisav, his beloved son. Rivkah Imeinu learns of this and orchestrates the situation so that Yaakov receives the Brachos, snatching victory from the hands of defeat.
But why are the Brachos received in such a fashion? The Brachos of Yitzchak are sacred; to receive them in such a manner seems to denigrate them. Why, then, did Yaakov receive them this way?
The answer is the essence of the underlying relationship between Yaakov and Eisav.
There is a progression in the development of the Avos. Avraham Avinu has his share of adversaries. He has to overcome the likes of a Pharaoh and an Avimelech. But no internal adversary opposes him.
In the following generation, the next building block of Klal Yisrael, Yitzchak Avinu encounters an opponent of a closer ilk, his very own brother Yishmael. Not a direct conflict but an indirect one, as both vie for supremacy in the house of Avraham.
Finally, the third and last cornerstone of the Jewish people, Yaakov Avinu, contests his twin, his closest of kin, in direct confrontation.
The Avos Hakadoshim were building a nation, the Jewish people. Each of the Avos moved a step closer to that goal, culminating in the twelve Shevatim – the nucleus of Klal Yisrael. The purpose of such a people was to promulgate G-d’s name, filling the empty world with sanctity and purity. Certainly such a task would not go unchecked. By no means would Evil and Sin let such a goal be achieved. The Yetzer Hara set up impediments, trying time after time to thwart the creation of such a noble people.
Yaakov and Eisav are twins. They share the same parents, the same womb. No relationship can be closer than this.
Yet Yaakov and Eisav are sworn enemies. When one rises, the other falls. No greater “counter” exists than this. The closeness of the womb disintegrates into the chasm between two contrasting worlds.
As the last link is to be created and Yaakov is about to become the third and final Av, as the goal becomes closer, the battle intensifies. Yaakov must directly challenge and overcome his twin. Neither can prosper in the face of the other.
Yitzchak and Yishmael can flourish simultaneously; neither one’s existence compromises the other. Yaakov and Eisav cannot thrive together. One must dominate the other. This is the final test in the creation of Klal Yisrael – to overcome an adversary whose key to survival is the total destruction of his opponent.
Such is the battle between good and evil. There is no place for both. This is the nature of the struggle between Yaakov and Eisav. Theirs is the struggle between Tov and Rah.
The Brachos of Yitzchak would determine who would be his successor. This is the finale. The chain of the Avos is about to be completed. The Yetzer Hara will not go down without a fight. Eisav is positioned to receive the Brachos, thus breaking the chain. But Rivkah intervenes, securing the Brachos to Yaakov.
The fight for the Brachos was not a denigration. Indeed, it defined the struggle between Yaakov and Eisav. To overcome Eisav, to create the Jewish nation and shape a destiny for the ultimate revelation of G-d in this world, required nothing less than this struggle.


Yaakov was born holding Eisav’s heel. Rashi comments that Yaakov was using his legal right to prevent Eisav from being born first and thereby declared the Bechor of Yaakov. This, the Midrash continues, is analogous to placing two stones in a thin tube; the first in will be the second out. Yaakov was obviously the first to be formed and therefore had a right to the Bechora, but Eisav forced his way out and “stole” the Bechora from him. For this reason, Yaakov had to buy the Bechora from Eisav. Yaakov’s behavior is questionable, as the Torah regards the first to be born as the Bechor and not the first to be formed.
Rav Shlomo Kluger (Chochmas Shlomo Chosen Mishpat 278) discusses a situation in which a man had two wives. They both conceived, but the one that conceived second gave birth first. Which son is the Bechor? He quotes a statement made in the name of Rav Chaim Volozhiner that in regard to inheritance, the son conceived first is to be regarded as the Bechor. As a proof, he referred to the verse in Devarim (21:15): “If a man should have two wives, one loved and one hated, and they both give birth, the loved one and the hated one, and the hated one had a Bechor.” From the first clause it would appear that the loved one gave birth first, yet the hated one had the Bechor. How so? He answers that the hated one conceived first but the loved one gave birth first. Therefore, the Torah warns that the one conceived first has the right to two portions. The Chochmas Shlomo questions Rav Chaim’s position, but without any absolute refutation.
A similar decision is brought in the name of the Vilna Gaon. Many challenge the veracity of the quote ascribed to the Vilna Gaon, as it would seem to contradict the Mishna. The Netziv on the verse in Devarim writes that the quote is a lie.
From this Rashi, Rav Shlomo Kluger writes, it is clear that birth and not conception is the deciding factor. Rashi stresses that Yaakov desired to be the one to open the womb and thereby claim the legal right to the Bechora. Obviously, even Yaakov agreed that Eisav was the Bechor, as he had opened the womb.
There is a different Halachic problem with Yaakov’s purchase of the Bechora. Halachically, one cannot buy or sell something that is intangible. This should include the Bechora. The Baalei HaTosfos al HaTorah (Bereishis 55:31 & 34) answer that since Yaakov was conceived first, he really was the Bechor, and he had a legitimate claim to a double portion. Opening the womb, they explain, is a condition in Bechor LeKohein but not in Bechor LeNachala.
Rashi would appear to agree with them. Rashi mentions Yaakov’s right as stemming from the fact that he was the first conceived. If conception is inconsequential, then why did the Midrash make mention of it? Furthermore, why did it appear to be the impetus for Yaakov’s attempt to attain the status of Bechor?
To explain the importance of conception in regards to being a Bechor, the Kli Chemda (Toldos) quotes the Gemara (Megilla 13a): Esther’s father died after she was conceived, and her mother died at her birth. Rashi explains that at the time he was able to be called a father he died, i.e., a father is a father at that time. Similarly, she lost her mother at the time she was able to be called a mother. This is hinted to in the Torah in the Parsha of Bechor. In regards to the father’s Bechor, the Torah calls it “Reishis Ono,” the first of his strength (Bereishis 49:3 & Devarim 21:17). This status is achieved at conception, for at that time the father is considered a father.
Rabbi Dovid Kviat (Succos Dovid, Toldos) explains that since there are usually two components in the Bechor, formation and birth, it follows that if the child that was born first forfeits his rights to the Bechora, in this instance Eisav because he disparaged and sold the Bechora, Yaakov would be the de facto Bechor. Accordingly, the sale was not the actual Bechora, as that is not a saleable item. Rather, it was a relinquishment of the Bechora on Eisav’s part and an acquisition of the Bechora by Yaakov on his own merit.
In reference to the Vilna Gaon’s chiddush, many explain that it is only relevant in a case of two wives where it is ascertainable which one conceived first. In the case of twins, however, it is impossible to establish with certainty which child was formed first, and the Halacha follows the birth. In the case of Yaakov and Eisav, Rabbeinu Bachaya writes it was a miraculous event. Therefore, the knowledge that Yaakov had that he was first is what prompted him to attempt to enforce his rights by being born first also. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 63:11) explains that Hashem preferred that Eisav be born first for esoteric reasons. Yaakov therefore bought the Bechora, which was rightfully his, in order to avoid Eisav challenging him in the future.