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Yaakov and Yissaschar, Esav and Zevulun

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 25/11/2019

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Yaakov and Yissaschar, Esav and Zevulun

We are taught that Yitzchak loved Esav כי ציד בפיו, trapping was in his mouth.[1] That seems strange since a Tzadik like Yitzchak who was ready to give up his life at the Akaida would love Esav because of food?


Ideally, Yaakov and Esav were supposed to have a יששכר זבולון relationship. That is, Yaakov to be the spiritual aspect—Ruchniyos, as he was an איש תם—and Esav to build the world, the Avoda of Gashmiyus as he was an איש שדה. This is one of the meanings in הקל קול יעקב והידים ידי עשו[2] as Yaakov is the קול, that is the קול of Torah and Tefila, and Esav is the one building the world with his hands.


Since Esav didn’t fulfill his purpose it is now Yaakov’s responsibility in addition to his own. Now we can appreciate the depth in ויעקבני זה פעמים[3] referring to the two responsibilities that Yaakov now needs to do. This is alluded to in וידו אחזת בעקב עשו, Yaakov held onto Esav’s heel, meaning now he has his Avoda. This also explains וירח...בגדיו,[4] Yitzchak smelled the fragrance of his clothing which was really Esav’s, as if to say that was the Avoda of Esav that he was now responsible for. This is why Yitzchak loved him—כי ציד בפיו—since he was building the world, thereby fulfilling his purpose.


In light of the above we can comprehend why Yaakov takes Leah as a wife, the intended one for [5]Esav—since he now has his responsibility to fulfill. Another example of this is that Esav’s naturally deceptive nature was supposed to be utilized for the positive. Now that Esav’s responsibility was given to Yaakov, he now had to use this trait in the right way. We therefore see that Yaakov goes to Lavan in order to learn how to be deceitful. This is the deeper meaning in בא אחיך במרמה—he is your brother in deceit. Therefore, Yaakov says if he comes for deceit I am his brother in deceit and if he is an אדם כשר I am also the son of his sister.[6] We now have no problem with how Yaakov could say אנכי עשו בכריך[7] since he now learned how to be deceitful. We should all merit to fulfill our purpose in this world.

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Breishis 25:28. The נודע ביהודה (Madura Tinyana, Yoreh Deah, 10) deals with the question if hunting is permitted. He says that there is no problem of בל תשחית andצער בעלי חיים . However, in Torah the only hunters we find are Esav and Nimrod and it is not the ways of the Avos. Why would a Jew unnecessarily kill an animal and waste his time? Going into a forest is dangerous and thus if one does so he transgresses ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם (Devarim 4:15. see Rambam הלכות רוצח ושמירת הנפש, 12:6). The expert hunter Esav said הנה אנכי הולך למות... meaning he was afraid of being with those animals. However, the נודע ביהודה does say that an עני who hunts for his sustenance is permitted to do so.

[2] Breishis 27:22.

[3] Breishis 27:36. Sichos Hischazkus, תשנ"ו.

[4] Breishis 27:27.

[5] Breishis 29:17, Rashi רכות. Reuven is the Esav part in Yaakov since his mother Leah was supposed to marry Esav. Through the episode of the דודאים, Leah had relations with Yaakov. From this came Yissaschar and Zevulun! That is how the relationship of Yaakov and Esav was supposed to be—as a Yissaschar and Zevulun partnership. Since Yaakov took over Esav’s role in this world (of fixing and building the world), he also has his mission in life here. So, Leah marries the Esav part in Yaakov (as one can’t change reality rather Hashem will make it still happen as we see here that she still married Esav. That is, the Esav part in Yaakov).

[6] Breishis 27:35. 29:12, Rashi כי. See Megila 13b.

[7] 27:19. Also see 27:24, Rashi. The Chassam Sofer (Breishis 27:15) writes about Rivka dressing Yaakov in Esav’s clothing when going to receive the Brachos from Yitzchak that this that Yaakov who was an איש תם was able to say words that weren’t completely true, that he was told his father he is Esav who is the Bechor, came about because of the clothing of Esav, who was accustomed to deceit. This clothing had a temporary effect on Yaakov with this trait of deceit which was needed for the Jewish people throughout the generations. 

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