In this week’s parsha, Toldot, we read how Isaac realizes that he is getting older and may not have much longer to live. He summons his son Esau and asks him to hunt game and prepare a meal of delicacies for him, explaining that he intends to partake of this special meal and then give his son a blessing. Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, overhears this conversation and, while Esau goes out on this task, Rebecca tells her other son, Jacob, of Isaac’s intent. She urges Jacob to prepare the same feast for his father and to impersonate Esau in order to receive the blessing instead. Jacob and Rebecca tend to the details of the plan to fool Isaac and, shortly after Jacob appears, disguised as Esau, Jacob presents Isaac with the meal of delicacies. Isaac believes that Esau has returned and he gives his son the blessing, not knowing that it is Jacob who is receiving the blessing instead.
Just after Jacob leaves his father, Esau arrives on the scene with the required delicacies, expecting to get the blessing from his father. Isaac tells him that he already had the meal and has blessed the person who brought it. Esau is very upset and says to his father, “Bless me, too!” As Isaac realizes that it was Jacob who took the blessing, Esau becomes more agitated and asks his father again, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Isaac answers that he has already given his blessing and that he cannot do anything about it. Esau, increasingly distraught, begs his father for the third time, ”Have you but one blessing, Father? Bless me, too.” Isaac finally answers his son Esau with a blessing.
In this story, not unlike others in the Torah, we see a confrontation of brother against brother. Unresolved problems among members of a family can affect everyone in the family constellation, not just the major players. Isaac is clearly in pain when he realizes that he has been duped. Jacob was uncomfortable with scheming to receive a blessing through trickery. And poor Esau had to plead three times for a blessing from his father. Isaac finds a blessing for him, but how much sweeter it would have been if it were more readily given!
Blessings are precious, and they touch our hearts. They don’t necessarily need to be saved for certain occasions and doled out sparingly. Spontaneous blessings are special, too. Perhaps we should not wait until the last moment or a necessary moment to share a blessing, especially with people in our own family who mean so much to us. Anyone can give a blessing anytime, and it will uplift the giver as well as the receiver. The story of how Esau has to beg shamelessly for a blessing reminds us to give blessings freely and frequently to those we love.
Today begins the new month of Kislev, in which the light of the Chanukah candles will glow in the faces of those who are close to us. May the light of the blessings you give also glow in the hearts of your family members this month and every month. Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov. PJC
Cantor Rena Shapiro is the spiritual leader of Beth Samuel Jewish Center.