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"And Rebecca heard when Isaac spoke to Esau his son" Genesis 27:5

    When we were introduced to Rebecca in last week's sidrah, she seemed remarkable: independent, active, generous, a role model. The brief insight we are given to her marriage to Isaac is a positive, loving one.

    But this week she seems very different. Here we see her eavesdropping on Isaac, her blind near-dying husband, as he tells his preferred son, Esau, to go and bring food, after which he will give him "a blessing". We assume Rebecca feels that Isaac has lost his good sense together with his sight, and is about to give Esau the patriarchal blessing that she intends for her preferred son, Jacob.

    She springs into the action we associate with her younger self and persuades a reluctant Jacob to take part in her elaborate plan. In a frenzy she produces a substitute meal and concocts Esau-like clothes for Jacob to trick Isaac.

    But there is no evidence that Isaac was going to give the all-important covenantal blessing to Esau.

    In the blessing that Isaac gives to Esau (mistaking Jacob for Esau), he offers material things, abundance and dominion (Genesis 27:39) but does not mention the Abrahamic legacy, the land, the seed. When the ruse is uncovered, Isaac blesses the real Jacob again with "the blessing of Abraham... to inherit the land of his sojournings" (Genesis 28:3).

    It seems Isaac knew all along who was destined to inherit the work of the patriarch after all. He may have been blind, but his inner sight remained clear.

    Rebecca pays dearly for her scheme, losing her beloved Jacob, who is forced to run away to escape the wrath of Esau. When Jacob returns from exile, Rebecca is dead. What disasters could have been averted by an open and truthful conversation between Isaac and Rebecca? What went wrong in this marriage?

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

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