SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, November 3, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Parashat Toldot tells the famous story of the blessing which Yitzchak intended to bestow upon the older of his two twins, Esav, but was deceived into granting to the younger twin, Yaakov.  Rivka, after hearing Yitzchak’s plan to bless Esav, instructed Yaakov to come before Yitzchak, who was visually impaired, and pretend to be his brother in order to receive the blessing.  To ensure this ruse would work, Rivka placed goatskins on Yaakov’s arms so he would feel hairy like his brother, and she also had him wear Esav’s clothing.  Specifically, the Torah tells that Rivka had Yaakov wear Esav’s “precious” garments (“chamudot”) which she happened to have with her in the house (27:15).
            We find several different approaches in the commentaries to explain the term “chamudot” in this verse and the special quality of these garments to which the Torah here refers.  Onkelos translates this word as “dakhyata,” which Rashi explains to mean “clean.”  According to this explanation, it seems, Rivka made a point of having Yaakov wear Esav’s fine garments.  In a similar vein, the Rashbam and Chizkuni explain that these were Esav’s special garments which he used when tending to his father as a sign of respect.  Chizkuni adds that Esav also wore these garments when he was in the presence of other distinguished people, and not only when tending to Yitzchak.  As part of Yaakov’s disguise, he wore the clothing that Esav would normally wear when serving Yitzchak, since Yaakov was bringing Yitzchak food before receiving the blessing, as Yitzchak had requested of Esav.
            The difficulty with this explanation is that it is unclear why Rivka felt she needed to have Yaakov wear this clothing.  After all, Esav was blind, which is precisely what enabled Rivka to devise this plan, so there seemed to be no need to have Yaakov disguise himself.  Rivka needed to wrap Yaakov’s arms in goatskins in case Esav felt Yaakov’s arms, which, unlike Esav’s, were smooth, but there does not seem to be any reason for why Yaakov would have to wear Esav’s clothing. 
To answer this question, the Radak writes that since Esav would wear these special garments when in the company of distinguished people, he would place fragrant flowers on them so they would have a pleasant scent.  This is why, as we read later (27:27), Yitzchak compared Yaakov’s scent to the fragrance of a lush garden – because these garments were scented.  Rivka had Yaakov wear this set of clothing so that he would not only feel like Esav, but also smell like Esav.
            Chizkuni suggests a different approach, explaining that these were the garments Esav normally wore while hunting.  They were called “chamudot” because they were set aside for use when Esav engaged in his favorite activity – hunting animals.  (It seems difficult to explain, however, why, if these were Esav’s hunting clothes, they were in the home at the time, given that Esav was out hunting game to prepare food for Yitzchak.)
            Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch suggests that the Torah here gives an incidental glimpse into Esav’s married life, informing us that he kept his most precious possessions with his parents, since he did not trust his wives.  According to Rav Hirsch, Rivka dressed Yaakov in these garments because they were the only garments that Esav kept in Yitzchak and Rivka’s home – and he kept them there because he did not trust his wives enough to keep his expensive clothing in their home.  The advantage of this interpretation is that it accounts for the otherwise superfluous phrase “asher itah ba-bayit” (“that were with her in the home”).  The Torah found it necessary to emphasize that these garments were with Rivka at home – a point which would seem plainly obvious.  According to Rav Hirsch, the Torah is telling us that Rivka took these clothes specifically because they were the only garments that Esav chose to leave at home when he got married and moved out of the house.