SALT - Monday, 27 Cheshvan 5779 - November 5, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Torah in Parashat Toldot tells the famous story of the blessing which Yitzchak wanted to grant to his older son, Esav, but ended up being conferred upon the younger twin, Yaakov.  Esav instructed Esav to hunt game and prepare food for him, promising to then grant him his blessing when the food was served.  Rivka heard Yitzchak’s plans, and immediately sprang into action to ensure that the blessing would be granted to Yaakov instead of Esav.  She prepared meat from goats in the family’s herd, and had Yaakov bring it to Yitzchak, who was blind, claiming to be Esav.  Yitzchak, though initially suspicious upon hearing Yaakov’s voice, indeed granted the blessing to Yaakov, thinking he was Esav.
            When Yaakov first came before his father with the food Rivka had prepared, Yitzchak asked him how he managed to complete his mission so quickly.  After all, Yitzchak had asked Esav to go out and hunt and then prepare food – a process which he naturally expected would take far longer than it took Rivka to prepare meat from a goat in the family’s stable.  Yaakov answered, “Ki hikra Hashem Elokekha lefanai” – “Because the Lord your God made it available before me” (27:20).  In other words, Yaakov – pretending to be Esav – explained that whereas normally hunting an animal would take a good deal of time, God helped him and made an animal easily accessible, such that he completed his mission with unusual speed.
            A meaningful insight into this verse is presented by Rav Shimshon Chaim Nachmani, in his Zera Shimshon, where he suggests that Yaakov here was not speaking untruthfully.  He indeed firmly believed that “hikra Hashem Elokekha lefanai,” that God made accessible to him the animal from which Rivka prepared the meat he now brought to his father.  Yaakov recognized God’s hand in providing the goats in the family herd no less than he would have recognized God’s hand in making an animal instantly and easily trappable in the jungle.  There was no difference, in Yaakov’s mind, between the animals in the pen outside his home and an animal that would miraculously fall into a trap without any effort on the hunter’s part.  Both were manifestations of “hikra Hashem Elokekha,” of divine providence.
            The Zera Shimshon here draws our attention to the tendency we have to take for granted that to which we are accustomed to having, and to feel grateful only for the unusual, unexpected blessings that come our way.  We don’t think twice about the “goats” in the “family herd,” the beautiful blessings that have long been part of our lives and about which we haven’t had to think twice, such as health, family, and our basic necessities.  It is only when we receive some exceptional, unforeseen good fortune that we feel a deep sense of gratitude.  The Zera Shimshon here challenges us to feel appreciative and enthusiastic about even the “ordinary” blessings in our lives, about the “goats” which are part of everyday existence, recognizing them as precious gifts lovingly granted to us by the Almighty.