In this week’s Parasha we find the second generation of the Jewish people: Isaac and Ribqa.
Ribqa, the wife of Isaac, had the best moral virtues. She practiced Hesed, generosity that manifests itself when one gives more than what is asked of her or him. In this sense Ribqa was a clone of Abraham, the individual who represented the epitome of Hesed.
Ribqa’s kindness was accompanied by her great wisdom. And a very solid personality when it came to maintaining her convictions. Also in this Ribqa was similar to Abraham, who remained firm in his principles despite having the rest of the world against him.
The firmness of Ribqa became a crucial element for the destiny of the Jewish people.
Isaac and Ribqa had two children. Ya’aqob and Esav. Ya’aqob was docile and a man of integrity and kindness. Esav was the opposite. Pure adrenalin. A man of the battlefieldand a skillful hunter.
It was the time to choose an heir. Not an heir who would inherit the material goods of Isaac, but something much more important. A leader that will follow and promote the path and values of Abraham Abinu.
And at this point -which one of the two sons should be chosen to succeed Abraham- Isaac and Ribqa did not agree.
For Isaac the undisputed heir was Esav. Why? It is possible that Isaac thought that the faith of Abraham, so different, was going to be opposed violently by other peoples. And the descendants of Abraham will have countless enemies (and he was not wrong!). And it was necessary then that the bearers of that faith knew how to defend themselves, fight and wage war for their convictions. Esav, his father thought, possessed the ideal virtues to defend the faith of Abraham. He was a powerful fighter, who could easily defeat those who would become his enemies.
The vision of Ribqa was different. The future successor of Abraham had to BE like Abraham. Esav was a great fighter, but that violent personality, very necessary for war, had become the essence of Esav.
Let us explore the two opinions.
יודע ציד איש שדה. Esav specialized in deceiving his victims, animals and humans. Esav was an expert when it came to identifying and exploiting the weaknesses of his enemies. Esav was a cunning hunter and a warrior who fixed his thoughts on how to defeat the other. This talent is very important for war, but how would this characteristic affect Esav’s personality? Would Esav be able to show kindness to a stranger like Abraham did?
למה זה לי בכורה. Esav, like every warrior who knows that the next battle can also be the last, lived the present without thinking about the future. And Esav demonstrated that he was willing to sacrifice the future to satisfy his present needs when he exchanged his birthright for a plate of lentils. How would this characteristic influence Esav in keeping Abraham’s way? Abraham’s values consists largely of being willing to sacrifice the present—desires, needs and appetites—thinking about the future.
יש לי רב. Esav was ambitious and materialistic. This is a very important virtue for a warrior, because material ambition is the best stimulus to go out to conquer other peoples, get their riches and becoming powerful and invincible But this quality that was the motivation of the Vikings and other warriors who ventured to conquer other nations, does not necessarily go hand in hand with the values of Abraham Abinu, where the most important value is not what you have, own or conquer but what you give to those who have less and need your help.
While Isaac saw Esav’s warrior personality as the guarantee for the preservation of the physical integrity and survival of Abraham Abinu’s people, Ribqa doubted that Esav embodied the values he was supposed to defend. And even if Esav would eventually commit himself to adopting these values, he had already taken as wives women from the land of Canaan, something that for Abraham was considered “crossing a red line”, since the values of these women were completely opposite to those of Abraham Abinu.
Ya’aqob, unlike Esav, was a kind and generous man. For Ya’aqob, the future was more important than the present. And the material had to serve a purpose beyond itself. Was is more, later in his life, Ya’aqob showed that he was also able to fight, when he defeated “the angel”.
Isaac did not see the flaws of Esav. But Ribka, with her intelligence and wisdom, knew very well that Esav was not the most suitable candidate to represent the values of Abraham. At the end of the story, Isaac Abinu acknowledged that his wife was right. And commanded Ya’aqob to take a wife from Abraham’s family.
At the most crucial moment, when the fate of Abraham Abinu’s legacy as at risk, Ribqa acted so that Ya’aqob would become the next patriarch of Israel. Our survival as a people of Israel is a testimony that Ribqa was right in her choice.