Beit Midrash

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A Deal for the Firstborn, a Restaurant Serving, or Holy Real Estate? – part I

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Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Cheshvan 28 5781
There are foundational events that appear in the beginning of our parasha. Yitzchak and Rivka were blessed with her pregnancy after years of anticipation. This "opened the door" for the fulfillment of Hashem’s promise to Avraham: "Listen to everything that Sarah tells you, for within Yitzchak it will be called for you an offspring" (Bereishit 21:12). Chazal deduced from this pasuk that not all of Yitzchak’s offspring would be called the progeny of Avraham, and this would exclude Eisav (Sanhedrin 59b). During the course of Rivka’s pregnancy, she was presented with the word of Hashem that she has two children, representing two nations, in her womb and that the more prominent one would be the younger twin (Bereishit 25:23). Several things in the firstborn’s early life point in the direction of the root adom (red). He was born red (ibid 25), he demanded of Yaakov to feed him red lentil soup and, based on this request, he was called Edom. In response to this demand for the food, Yaakov had Eisav swear to sell his rights as a firstborn to Yaakov (ibid. 30-33). Thus, the nations emanating from these two brothers were the Sons of Jacob/Israel and the Sons of Edom.

Avraham was promised two main things. Hashem promised him that he would be the father of a multitude of nations and kings (ibid. 17:4-6). He was also promised that his offspring would receive the land in which he lived, C’na’an (ibid. 8). While many nations are traced to Avraham, only one was given the Land promised to him as its own.

The fact that Yaakov bought the status of firstborn from the red Eisav for the red lentil soup ensured that Eisav became Edom and that Eretz C’na’an/Yisrael would go only to Yaakov’s family. Eisav would painfully be separated from the legacy of the family of Yitzchak the son of Avraham. In that way, he was like Yishmael (see similarities in Bereishit 21:20 and ibid. 25:27) upon whom it was decreed that he would not inherit along with his brother Yitzchak. It was a bigger chiddush in regard to Eisav, because unlike Yishmael, Eisav came from the same mother, in addition to father, that Yaakov came from. It also was not originally clear which brother would be separated, as Yitzchak preferred Eisav, while Rivka preferred Yaakov.

Another part of the Yitzchak story in the parasha relates that Yitzchak stayed in C’na’an even during a famine, when he would have been expected to go to the more stable Egypt. Hashem told him that staying in the Land made him worthy of the promise of the Land made to Avraham for his offspring (ibid. 26:1-3). Similarly, among Yitzchak’s sons, the one who was chosen to continue the special legacy of Avraham and inherit the Land was Yaakov, the one who stayed in C’na’an, whereas Eisav moved to Edom. However, at the end of this parasha, we see that matters became very complex, as it is Yaakov who left C’na’an first. (We will discuss that more next time.)
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