Friday, November 16, 2012

Toldos - The Voice of Jacob and the Hands of Esau

In Parshas Toldos we read of the incident when Jacob, in obedience to the prophetic directive of his mother, was required to approach his blind father disguised as Esau, his brother, in order to receive his blessing. Jacob raised the concern that Isaac would know he was not Esau by feeling him, so Rebecca clothed him in Esau's clothing and covered his arms and neck with kid skin (to make him feel hairy like Esau). Thus, when Jacob approached his father, Isaac heard his voice and felt his hands, and remarked (Genesis 27:22):
הקול קול יעקב והידים ידי עשו
“The voice is the voice of Yakov, and the hands are the hands of Eisav.”

The Midrash Raba (65:20) writes on this verse:
אין יעקב שולט אלא בקולו – הקול קול יעקב, והידים ידי עשו – אין עשו שולט אלא בידים... בשעה שיעקב מרכין בקולו ידי עשו שולטות... ובשעה שהוא מצפצף בקולו... אין ידי עשו שולטות... בזמן שקולו של יעקב מצוי בבתי כנסיות אין הידים ידי עשו, ואם לאו הידים ידי עשו
Jacob dominates only through his voice (i.e. Torah and prayer) – “The voice is the voice of Jacob, and the hands are the hands of Esau” – Esau dominates only through the hands (physical force).... When Jacob lowers his voice, the hands of Esau dominate... and when he calls out with his voice... the hands of Esau do not dominate. ... When the voice of Jacob is found in the synagogues, the hands are not the hands of Esau, and if not, then the hands are the hands of Esau .”
This medrash teaches us that with our voices – in Torah study and prayer – the Jewish people determine whether violence will be the dominant force in the world. The commentaries add that when the Jewish people use their voices properly, then they merit that the hands of Esau will not only not be harmful, but will even be beneficial, serving the greater good and enabling the Jewish people to serve God fully. (דגל מחנה אפרים)

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