We read in Parashat Toldot the difficult and disquieting story of Yaakov coming before his father, at his mother’s behest, to receive the blessing which his father had sought to grant to his older twin, Esav. As Yitzchak had lost his vision, Yaakov was able to come before him and pretend to be his brother, and thereby receive the blessing which Yitzchak thought he was conferring upon Esav.
Rav Aryeh Tzvi Frommer of Kozhiglov Hy”d, in his Eretz Tzvi, draws our attention to one of the more overlooked aspects of this story, namely, Yaakov’s humiliation at those moments when he came before his father. The Rav of Kozhiglov imagines Yaakov’s feelings of shame and degradation as he found himself forced to pretend to be his brother in order to receive Yitzchak’s blessing. Rav Frommer writes:
There was no time better suited for a blessing than that moment, when our patriarch Yaakov saw that Yitzchak loved Esav more than him, and wanted to bless Esav and not him, and also that Yitzchak was not prevented by Above from doing so – as a result of this Yaakov’s heart was incomparably broken and despondent, as he thought of himself worse than Esav. And therefore, he was then especially suited to receive the light of sanctity of these blessings.
Rav Frommer explains that we become especially deserving of blessing through humility. It is specifically when a person feels unworthy, when he does not feel naturally entitled, that he earns special blessing. Rav Frommer boldly suggests that this is precisely the reason why Yaakov needed to receive the blessings in such an unusual manner – because the humbling, humiliating experience of having to disguise as his brother is what rendered him worthy of this blessing.
Yaakov obeyed his mother’s command to seize the blessing intended for his brother, but he did so reluctantly, without any sense of pride or entitlement. He felt unworthy of this blessing – and this, according to the Rav of Kozhiglov, is precisely what made him worthy of it. This episode, then, teaches us that we help ourselves best through humility, by limiting our demands and expectations, and not by arrogantly assuming that we deserve all that we desire.