Introduction & Parashah Name; 1. Esau and Jacob; 2. The youth of Jacob and Esau and the purchase of the seniority from Esau; 3. Isaac’s refrain from going to Egypt; 4. The Adventures of Isaac and Rivqah in the Land of the Philistines; 5. Digging Wells, Conflict and Reconciliation with the Philistines, Be’er Sheva; 6. the 3 Wells of Isaac, the triune structure of Genesis and the 3 Temples; 7. The first wives of Esau, Judith and Bosmat; 8. Jacob masquerades as Esau and receives the blessing; 9. Jacob Exiles and Esau marries Ishmael’s Daughter, Mahlat; 10. The exiles of Jacob and Esau – The Edomite and Ishmaelite exiles; 11. Jacob and Esau and the Thrd Temple – Partnership of Judaism, Christianity and Palestinians in the building of the Temple.
Re-GENESIS NOW Exegesis
Parashat Toldot (Gen. 25:19 – 28:9)
Introduction & Name of the Parashah
1. Esau and Jacob
2. The youth of Jacob and Esau and the purchase of the seniority from Esau
3. Isaac’s refrain from going to Egypt
4. The Adventures of Isaac and Rivqah in the Land of the Philistines
5. Digging Wells, Conflict and Reconciliation with the Philistines, Be’er Sheva
6. the 3 Wells of Isaac, the triune structure of Genesis and the 3 Temples
7. The first wives of Esau, Judith and Bosmat
8. Jacob masquerades as Esau and receives the blessing
9. Jacob Exiles and Esau marries Ishmael’s Daughter, Mahlat
10. The exiles of Jacob and Esau – The Edomite and Ishmaelite exiles
11. Jacob and Esau and the Third Temple – Partnership of Judaism, Christianity and Palestinians in the building of the Temple.
Introduction & Name of the Parashah
The whole book of Genesis, parashah after parashah, repeats the Acts of creation (Ma’ạsei Bereshit): the molding of Man, the Garden of Eden, and the Tree of Life. Such themes also recur in all the ancient cultures.
The full course of the book of Genesis-Bereshit has twelve parashot. The first cycle – the Aẓilut cycle (of the first creation story) and the Beri’ah cycle (from the formation of Adam until the death of Abraham) was of five parashot, whereas the next cycle – which has seven parashot (three about Yiẓḥaq and Yaạqov and four about Yoseph and his brothers) – is the cycle of Yeẓirah and of Ạssi’yah, which are symbolized through the figures of Jacob-Ya’ạqov and of Esau-Ẹsav, the story of whose birth and youthful relationship are brought in this parashah.
Parashat Toldot starts a new seven-stage cycle of Genesis: not the start of all of humankind, but the beginning of an idea of restitution-Tiqun, which is realized through one, quasi ethnic, branch from the whole of humankind, upon whom would be put the burden of the restitution of the world – Tiqun Ọlam – and through which would come blessings to the world. This cycle was founded by the realization of the Cave of the “Makhpela” (literally “Cave of Multiplication”) at the former Parashah of Ḥaye Sarah. This new branch is an offshoot of the Tree of Life, and its growth to a mighty tree is facilitated by application of operations of Makhpela-Multiplication.
According to the Pythagorean numerology and as we claim also in the Torah, One is not considered as a number but is the primal entity, and multiplication by one does not change anything and does not produce additional offspring. The first even number is considered female and the first even number is three and it is considered male. Thus 2 and 3 are the mother and the father, and their union – namely their multiplication – gives the number six – the first “Perfect Number” (and the number of letters in the first word of the Book of Genesis), whereas all the ensuing numbers are products – Toldot – of the combinations of male and female (additions and multiplications).
And indeed, the name of this Parasha – Toldot (written in the scriptures in the condensed form of תולדת) is a name whose meaning is amplified and clarified by its Gematria value of 840, which is the sum of the multiplication of 4x5x6x7 = 840. When the union of the parents, Abraham and Sarah, is continued by the unions of the sons (that the system of the Cave of the Makhpelah is already set to receive and integrate) brings to the Makhpelah-Multiplication of all the seven stages: 1x2x3x4x5x6x7 = 5040. Plato, who disseminated the story of the Kingdom of Atlantis that was destroyed by deluge, was preaching for the establishment of the rectified ideal city he called Magnesia, which should have 5040 citizens, no more and no less. The Bible, however, calls the ideal city “Yerushalem” (Jerusalem) and its foundation was in Ḥebron and after seven years moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem.
The Bereshit-cycle – the cycle of the formation of Adam-humankind – starts with the words “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord (YHWH) God (Elohim) made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4). We have brought there the midrash; ‘be’hibar’am – be’abraham” (and may note here the reversal of the order – first ‘heavens and earth… created’, and then “made the earth and the heavens’). This finds its parallel in parashat toldot, which starts with “And these are the generations of Yiẓḥaq-Isaac, Abraham's son; Abraham fathered Yiẓḥaq” (Gen. 25:19).
On the face of it, there is a repetition here, even if it comes in reversed order (first Yiẓḥaq is the subject, and immediately after that – Abraham). Interpretations of Qabbalah and Ḥassidut treat this sentence intensively. The gist of it is that the forefathers stand as two different beginnings, like to legs of a ladder, and each leg stands by its own, and is essential for erecting the ladder. But Rashi’s exegesis brings an interesting possibility: “that the clowns of that generation were saying that Sarah became pregnant from Avimelekh”, and therefore there was a need for a miracle, that Yiẓḥaq looked exactly like Abraham and everyone could see that it was Abraham who begot Yiẓḥaq. This is an interesting clue that comes as an introduction to the account of the wanderings of Yiẓḥaq to the Philistine city of Gerar, where he would repeat his father’s irregular conduct, and would again present his wife as his sister. The relations between the children of Abraham, Yiẓḥaq and Ya’ạqov on one hand and the philistines-Palestinians on the other hand, are, needless to say, still problematic to this very day, and the possibility that “The Children of Yiẓḥaq are “Palestinians” certainl poses a challenge.
If we return to the image that “The Fathers are the Merkavah” – “chariot”, and recall that the navigation components of the Merkavah were supplied by Abraham, who was wandering and searching the center-point of the world, we may view Yiẓḥaq as the one who added the propulsion elements to that Merkavah. The Merkavah is a shuttle for transferring humankind from a beastly state to a divine state; it is the cultural-genetic complex that would determine the family relationships among the twelve brothers of the future Israel.
From the perspective we introduced – that the Book of Genesis is meant to be understood only in our generation, Yiẓḥaq has a great significance: the middle generation of the State of Israel, the one also called “the Generation of 1948”, the one that governed the state until recently, was called, also by itself “The Yiẓḥaq Generation”. Many of the leaders of that generation, who had a fateful influence on the development of the State of Israel, were called Yiẓḥaq. It is enough to recall the two prime ministers who held office in succession, Yiẓḥaq Shamir and Yiẓḥaq Rabin.
The Sages had stipulated about the fathers at the time of redemption: “though Abraham is ignorant of us, and Israel does not acknowledge us” (Isaiah 63:16), and only about Yiẓḥaq it would be said “you are our father” (Talmud Bavli, tractate Shabat 89b).
1 – the Birth of Ya’aqov and Esav
“And Yiẓḥaq entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer”. In the original Hebrew text, he entreated lenokhaḥ Ishto – in front of, or facing, his wife. Rashi, who lived in a culture of separate prayer for men and for women, explained: “he was standing praying in one corner and she was standing at the other corner praying”, that is, separate prayer. We deem this means that they stood facing each other (much like the two cherubs atop the Ark of covenant at the Tabernacle) and prayed for the Divine presence, the Shekhinah to come between them. As the sages said, “A man (Ish) and a woman (Ishah) who merited, the Shekhinah is between them; if they did not merit, fire (Esh) consumes them” (Bavli, tractate Sota 17a). once again, birth in the family of Abraham is not a simple and natural matter that comes unconsciously, but demands the strife of the fathers and the blessing of God.
The rivalry between the two brothers and their struggle for attaining the seniority rights and the blessing of their father is the main motif of the parashah. This is the next round in the struggle between the brothers, which started with Qayin-Cain and Hevel-Abel, continued between Noaḥ’s sons and returned to Abraham’s story, with Yishma’el-Ishmael and Yiẓḥaq-Isaac. But with the children of Abraham, the struggles become more focused, and the entail matters of inheritance. It is easy to understand the background, when we deal with Yiẓḥaq and Yishma’el, sons to two different mothers, one the lady and one a bondwoman, where it was the firstborn, with many years seniority, the natural heir, was the son of the bondwoman, for whom his rival’s mother made clear her intentions against him: “the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, with Yiẓḥaq” (Gen. 21:10).
But Esau and Jacob-Ya’ạqov were twin brothers, sons of one woman, with a difference of age of but a few minutes, the one born holding the heel of his brother. Yet the importance of the seniority and certain genetic differences (reddish and hairy versus smooth), were enough to fix one as the “elder/big” (gadol) and the other as “younger/small” (qatan), and the struggle between them as the struggle between the big and the small. The distinctions between them grow to become big differences, which are eventually perceived as opposites – but may also be perceivable as complementary.
The Bible, characteristically, does not seek to beautify its heroes. In the Biblical story, Ya’ạqov-Jacob is the little intriguer, who gains his blessing by cheating. But in order to appreciate the changing interpretations of the Torah in the course of the generations, we need to observe how these figures were perceived over the years: in the books of the prophets it is already the figure of Esau who is considered the more negative of the two. This is excelled by the prophet Ọvadiah that the one chapter of his book deals with a prophecy of doom towards Edom – that is, Ẹsau. He calls Edom “small and despised” (Ovadiah 1:2).
In the course of the generations, the figure of Esau gathered demonization among the Jews, becoming identified with the wicked Roman Empire, and eventually with the whole Christian world. Medieval commentators who lived in exile among the Christians, especially those who experienced the persecutions of the Crusades, went out of their way to defame Esav-Esau, whom they perceived as the father and spiritual leader of their Christian neighbors. Rashi, the most accepted and known traditional commentator – is an example to this mode of perception. He is largely responsible to the figure of Esav, as Judaism perceives him to this day. Rashi does not refrain from slander: “behold, there were twins in her womb” the Hebrew word te’omim is there spelled only as tomim, without the letter Aleph, “whereas in the case of Tamar (having twins, Gen. 38:27), it is spelled fully (te’omim), because they were both righteous, but here one is righteous and one wicked”. “And the first came out red – a sign that he would become a spiller of blood”; “A cunning hunter – to hunt and cheat his father”; “And Esav came from the field and he was faint – from so much murdering”. In other words, Rashi actually turns the tables around. The Bible shows Ya’ạqov as a cheat and fake, and Esav as his father’s beloved son and the cheated one.
In the following, we shall see additional interpretations, which ostensibly point at seclusion and opposition, but in essence, they also hint at a potential for greater complementarity. Rashi also interprets “Two nations – Goyim – in thy womb” (25:23), which is spelled there irregularly as Geyim) “Geyim like Ge’im (proud), which are Antoninus and Rabbi”. This is a most interesting comparison, of the continuum of opposites that are actually complementary, because Antoninus was the Emperor of Rome, and Rabbi was Rabbi Yehudah ha’Nassi, and it is the tradition of the sages that the two were close friends, and that the Roman Emperor frequently consulted the Jewish sage and asked him about the Torah. The Midrash source for that comparison is even more far-reaching: the Mesoratic text, as noted, writes not “two Goyim in thy womb” but “two Geyim in thy womb” and the sages claimed that Geyim=Ge’im (proud). The two brothers, and the nations Judea and Rome, are proud. Even though the proud are likely to enter into conflict, in this Midrash they are congenial to each other: “this one proud of his kingdom, and that one proud of his kingdom; “two Ge’ey Goyim – proud nations – in thy womb” – Adrianus-Hadrian among the nations and Shlomoh-Solomon in Israel” (Bereshit Raba 63, 7). What is so interesting in this special comparison is that the two “proud brothers” were the two great Temple builders – King Solomon and Emperor Hadrian. It was Hadrian who built the temples of Jupiter and his wives over the ruins of the Jewish Second Temple, in the city of Ilya Capitolina built over the ruins of Jerusalem, and in this saying of the sages, this Temple of Jupiter is seen as equal in status to the Temple of Solomon, the First Temple!
When the two were born, the first one emerged “red, all over like a hairy garment; and they called his name `Ẹsav” (25:25). Rashi explains that Ẹsav came out Ạsuy – made up, ready and prepared. In any case, his name Ẹsav (עשו) harks to the root of Ẹ.S.H. (ע.ש.ה) – making – and indeed, in the following we learn that Ẹsav excels in the doing – Ạssiyah – of his hands, whereas Ya’ạqov-Jacob’s strength is in his mouth. Ẹsav’s orientation is extrovert, to the surface of things, and thus his growth is expressed externally, and he grows outwards – through his outer hairs, which pierce to the space around him. Ya’ạqov-Jacob, on the other hand, seems to prefer to grow inwards, through his “interior hairs”, namely his brain neurons, and develop ever more complex and intertwined connections in his brain. When the dramatic moment of the blessing arrived, Yiẓḥaq identified the complementarity between his seemingly-opposite sons: “The voice is Ya’ạqov’s voice, and the hands are the hands of `Ẹsav” (27:22), and this forms a hidden blessing for the union of the abilities in the far future.
The inborn distinction between the twin brothers is that the hairy – Sa’ịr – Ẹsav would inherit “Mount Se’ịr”, whereas the smooth – ḥalaq – Ya’ạqov would inherit “apportioned inheritance” – ḥeleq ve’Naḥalah (31:14; Deut. 10:9, 12:12), and as is written “For the Lord's portion – Ḥeleq - is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (Deut. 32:14). Ya’ạqov is “a smooth character”, like the serpent that sheds his skin. Just that in his case, in his move of masquerading, he does not shed but puts on a skin and a hairy garment. It is possible to see a parallel between Ya’ạqov and the cunning serpent of parashat Bereshit. Ya’ạqov is destined to become “Yisra’el” as a redemptive-messianic entity, one name for which in the Qabbalah is “Naḥash-Serpent of holiness” (and recalling that the gematria of NaḤaSh (358) equals that of MaShI’aḤ-Messiah).
The ARI’zl explains Ya’aqov’s being smooth-Ḥalaq in a different way: “because he was divided-neḥelaq to two parts: until the chest – Le’ah, and from the chest down – Raḥel-Rachel” (Ḥayim Vital, Liqute Torah for Toldot). Le’ah - who was hidden from him – represents the hidden world – Ọlam ha’Nistar – which is identified in the Qabbalah with the higher Sefirot (from the chest up in the anthropomorphic configuration of the Sefirot) and especially the Sefirah Binah, from which are “born” six other Sefirot (that parallel the six sons that Le’ah bore). Raḥel – on the other hand – who was exposed to the eyes of Ya’ạqov, who thus fell in love with her, is likened to the lower and more manifest Sefirot, and especially the Sefirah Malkhut, which has nothing of her own and nothing is thus born or issues from her. So, the birth of her sons is a miracle that does not come naturally.
There is an interesting parallel between the standing of our Father Ya’ạqov and of the King Shelomoh-Solomon. Solomon was not the firstborn son of King David, and he did not seem at first likely to inherit the kingdom. His father David, recalled as being “red haired – Admoni – with beautiful eyes” (I Samuel 16:12), especially loved his handsome son Avshalom-Abshalom who had long hair locks, which recalls Ẹsav who “came out red – Admoni – all over like a hairy garment, and they called his name Ẹsav” (Gen. 25:25). Even though Avshalom, contrary to his name (“Father of Peace”), was a person of war and came to declare war on his father to dispossess him of his kingdom, still David loved him to the bitter end. Shelomoh gained the kingdom only after his mother schemed and tricked the aging monarch; much like Rebbeca-Rivqah did in order to bestow the father’s blessing to her beloved son.
During Solomon-Shelomoh’s reign and the building of the First Temple by him, Edom was subjugated to Israel. It is possible to surmise that Shelomoh’s grand political plan was to assimilate all the nations of his kingdom into one people, and the appointing of twelve governors was made in order to remodel the kingdom, so it encompasses all the inhabitants of the kingdom, including the newly joined. With regard to the relationship of Ya’ạqov-Israel to Edom, there was fulfilled the blessing that Yiẓḥaq gave to Ya’ạqov: “Let people serve you, and nations bow down to you; be lord over your brothers, and let your mother's sons bow down to you” (Gen. 27:29). But the intentions of King Solomon have not been fulfilled, and his kingdom did not endure. It was divided after him into two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Israel “”the Ten Tribes”) and the Kingdom of Judah (with Benjamin and Shim’on and an admixture of Levites), and eventually “Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and set up a king over themselves” (II Kings 8:20). With this the blessing/prophecy of Ya’ạqov to Esav “And by your sword shall you live, and shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass when you shall have the dominion, that you shall break his yoke from off your neck” (Gen. 27:40).
2 – Ya’ạqov and Ẹsav’s Youth, buying the Seniority from Esav
When the brothers grew, their relations became structured, and their differences became apparent. Esav became “a cunning hunter, a man of the field”, and Ya’ạqov-Jacob “a plain man, dwelling in tents” (Gen. 25:27). The differences between them echo the differences between Yiẓḥaq and Rivqah and lead to the differential preferences of the parents.
The roots of the distinction between “The Field” and “The Tent” derive from the earlier cycle, the Cycle of Beri’ah. Yiẓḥaq met Rivqah, who fell in love with him when he went out to stroll (or meditate) in the field, and he then “brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent” (24:67). He - like his favorite son - was a man of the field; she - like her favorite son – was a tent dweller. Only after they revealed to each other their true character – Yiẓḥaq “took Rivqah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; and Yiẓḥaq was comforted after his mother’s death”. Yiẓḥaq loved Ẹsav, the “man of the field”.. “for he relished his venison”; but the field is not only where the hunt is available, not necessarily only the place of falling in love out of the bounds of the settlement “Come my beloved, let us go forth into the field..” (Canticles 7:13) – but also the place of the confrontation: “and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Qayin rose up against Hevel his brother, and slew him” (Gen. 4:8).
The Midrash, which is hostile to Esau, explains the expression “a cunning hunter” (Ish yode’ạ Ẓayid) in that Esau “used to hunt people”, and especially his father, with “smooth words”. According to these Midrashim, also Esau masqueraded as a plain man, to his brother. The motif of masquerading is thus, according to these Midrashim, mutual. The two twin, yet different, brothers, each requires the figure of the other, and their identity tends to alternate, as we shall see in the sequel. Each one of the two brothers is likely – Ạssuy – to appear as the other: Ya’ạqov as Ẹsav, but also Ẹsav as Ya’ạqov.
The struggling together (25:22) between the twins brother is a symbol for the struggling between the religions. Christianity, which the Judaism identifies with Ẹsav, first abandoned the practical commands – mitzvoth ma’ạsiyot (a word association with Ẹsav) – and concentrated, ostensibly, only on “spirituality”. Judaism, on the other hand, was regarded as the practical and materialistic religion. In the sequel we shall also review the changing roles between the older and younger religion.
The two twins were born in a struggle the one held the other’s heel in an attempt to overtake him, one was loved by his father and the other was his mother’s favorite. But the first high point in the drama between the brothers came on the day that Ya’ạqov prepared a pottage in the camp and Esau came from the field to the camp and he was faint. So tired was he, that he thought that he was at the point of death (25:32). Ya’ạqov took advantage of Ẹsav’s weakness to extract promises. He sold the pottage for Ẹsav’s swearing to give up his birthright to Ya’ạqov. “And Ya’ạqov gave Ẹsav bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink and rose up, and went his way; thus Ẹsau despised his birthright” (25:34).
What was that birthright, that was so important for Ya’aqov, and which Esav despised? Or perhaps he did not despise it? For when he came to his father to receive the blessing that was already taken from him, Esav did mention Ya’ạqov’s misdeed: “Is not he rightly named Ya’ạqov? for he has supplanted me - vaYa’ạqveni - these two times; he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he has taken away my blessing” (Gen. 27:36). Rashi emphasizes in his commentary that the struggle was not over inheritance of land and estate, but the inheritance of the priesthood, of conducting ritual sacrifices, the inheritance that Abraham received from Malkitsedek. In this, the struggle between Ya’ạqov and Esav repeats exactly the struggle between Qayin-Cain and Hevel-Abel. According to this commentary, only when it became evident that the blessing of the father to his firstborn son is a blessing for tangible material things, and the birthright includes also “be lord over your brothers, and let your mother's sons bow down to you” then did Ẹsav regret the transaction he made years before. Because the blessing of priesthood – the blessing of Malkitsedek to Abram: “Blessed be Abram of the Most High God” must have been intended, and also fitted, for the tent dweller. But the material blessing, as Esav sensed rightfully, was aimed for the man of action.
Yiẓḥaq loved Ẹsav who fed him with venison. The hunter, the man of the field, is more rigorous than the plain son dwelling in tents. Yiẓḥaq, who according to what we saw at parashat va’Yera was capable of perceiving and envisioning the future, knew how much rigor will his sons require in order to survive, and of his two sons, it was really Esav who had of the qualities of rigor and resolve. It is possible thus that Yiẓḥaq also envisioned the struggles between the twins, in their embodiments as Judaism and Christianity, and how they continue in fact up to our present day.
Ya’ạqov-Jacob, the tender man of the tents, was required to do his own restitution-Tiqun and realize the material through hard work at the field, which he “gained” only at Laban’s household: “Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from my eyes. Thus have I been twenty years in thy house” (31:40-41). Only after that did Ya’aqov become able to fight and contend “with God and men” and to receive the name of “Yisra’el” that for whom the blessings were intended.
3. Yiẓḥaq’s Avoidance of Going Down to Egypt
"And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days if Abraham. And Yiẓḥaq went to Avimelekh, king of the Pelishtim (Philistines, Palestinians)to Gerar" (26:1-2). The descent of Yiẓḥaq to Gerar resembles so much the deeds of his father that it seems like a literary repetition or, at least, some trailing behind and compulsive repetition of the father’s follies. Yet there are important differences between the two stories: When there was again a famine in the land – recalling the famine during Abraham’s days – Yiẓḥaq apparently intended to “descend” to Egypt, just as his father did before him. But the Lord-YHWH appeared to him, and commanded him “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you; Sojourn – gur - in this land” (26:2-3). In this way did the Land of Kena’ạn-Canaan become – for Ya’ạqov – to “the land in which his father had sojourned – Ereẓ megure Aviv” (37:1), a place to dwell – gur – in, even in days of danger – magor – and fear.
Yet in a certain manner, also Yiẓḥaq lived in exile, even though he dwelled in the Land of Israel. The count of the four hundred years, about which Abraham was told “Know surely that thy seed shall be a stranger - Ger - in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred year” (Genesis 15:13) continued from the time these words were uttered, at the covenant, namely: before Yiẓḥaq was born, and that is why Yiẓḥaq had to experience the life of the sojourner - Ger – who dwells - gar - in the land. That is perhaps the reason that the name of the place that he arrived to – as well as the trial he was facing – Gerar. On the other hand, he was saved the contention with the kingdom of Egypt. Only the selling of Joseph by his brothers would bring the exile into full realization. It seems as if there was a need for some crime that needed atonement, in order for the prophesied exile would be fully realized. What is clear is that the total prohibition put on Yiẓḥaq, to conduct his life only in the land, was not made over his sons. On the contrary, the two parents would encourage Ya’ạqov-Jacob to leave the Land of Kena’ạn for a “root journey” in Ḥaran.
4. Yitzhak and Rivqah’s Adventures of in the Land of the Philistines
Let us return then to the differences between the journey of Abraham to Gerar (and to Egypt) and Yiẓḥaq’s journey.
Yiẓḥaq experienced it once, and not twice. 2) Rivqah was already a mother saddled with twins when she went to the Land of the Philistines (and it is harder to hide the motherhood than to hide the marriage). 3) A difference that was apparently very meaningful is given in the sentence “that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out a window, and saw, and, behold, Yiẓḥaq was sporting - meẓaḥeq - with Rivqah his wife” (26:8). This was not just making love, but sporting in it, doing that special action of Yiẓḥaq, which gives him his true name.
In Gerar, in the Land of the Philistines, Yiẓḥaq was hiding again, just as his father had done, his wife’s identity and presenting her as his sister. But this time, the story is more tenderized – me’ụdan. The woman was not taken into the king’s house (or harem), but otherwise: it seems as if Abimelekh King of the Plishtim (Philistines - Palestinians), whether this was the very king who got already burnt by his affair with Abraham and Sarah or this was his successor, must have already known the dire affair, which almost decimated a Gerarian royal house, and he acted as a man of experience. He did peep into his guests’ boudoir, but did not initiate anything. Even when he invited Yiẓḥaq for a reprimand, he did not even raise a possibility that he – the King - would have desired Rivqah, but “one of the people” - any Philistine.
The outcome: It was in the very land that he went down to in the time of hunger, that Yiẓḥaq enjoyed a mighty economic bounty: “Then Yiẓḥaq sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year an hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. And the man grew great, and went forward and grew, until he became very great” (Gen 26:12-13).
This productivity is, in fact, a recurring motive: after the return of the Wife to her husband’s bosom – then comes a spell of immense fertility. Yishma’el was born after Abraham’s visit to Egypt, Sarah conceived after the visit to Avimelekh, whereas Yiẓḥaq became after his visit to Gerar “And the man grew great, and went forward and grew, until he became very great. For he had possessions of flocks, and possessions of herds, and great store of servants; and the Philistines envied him”. This is the first explicit mention of envy in the book of Genesis. The motif of envy will repeat with Raḥel and Le’ah (30:1) and with the brothers of Joseph (37:11).
“And Avimelech said to Yiẓḥaq, Go from us; for you are mightier than we” (26:16). This is an ecological edict, which is typical of the wandering life of the shepherds, to separate when the land could no longer carry them all. When this happened to Abraham, he separated from his brother Lot, but gave the latter the choice to find a preferred place. Abimelekh, on the other hand, sent Yiẓḥaq out to a marginal place, the Gerar River basin. But also there there abounded the struggles between the shepherds over the wells.
This was, in fact, the start of the struggle over this Land, between the Philistines (or Palestinians) and the Father of Israel, a struggle that persisted to our very days and is eschalating now. The contending sides have been interchanged several times in the course of history, just as the twins, Ẹsav-Esau and Ya’ạqov-Jacob. The two stories get interlaced in this saga, into the entire Philastin-Israeli Complex, and nowadays also of the relationship of Islam-Isma’il and Judaism-Yitzhaq, and of the relationship of Christianity-Esau versus Judaism-Israel.
5. Digging Wells, Conflict and Reconciliation with the Philistines, and (re)building Be’er Sheva.
It was here that Yiẓḥaq discovered his basic and deep nature, as a “Well Digger”. One who has the ability to draw through them water from the depth of the Earth. Abraham also digged wells, but Abraham’s well did not endure. Abraham, who was born at the land of the Great Rivers, trusted not the blessings of heaven, and went down to Egypt during the draught, Egypt that also survives off a river. Rivqah was judged to be worthy to marry Yiẓḥaq by the well. Yiẓḥaq was a part of the local culture. He understood the character of the land. His wells survived. Yiẓḥaq returned and restored his father’s wells, in thereby renewed the connection to the earth. He also dug up anew Be’er Sheva – “The Well of Seven” – and retuned to her her former name.
The Be’er Sheva Episodes of Abraham and of his son Yiẓḥaq are so similar, that it is hard to avoid the feeling, that there must have occurred a scribe’s mistake: Abimelekh and Pikol the captain of his host came to Abraham, and Abimelekh and Pikol the captain of his host came to Yiẓḥaq. The excuse for the visit of the 1st Abimelekh (of Abraham’s time) is “God is with thee in all that thou doest” (21:22). The excuse for the visit of the 2nd Abimelekh (to Yiẓḥaq’s) was: “” (26:28). In the two cases the host reproved Abimelekh. Abraham: “reproved Abimelekh because of the well of water, which Abimelekh’s servants had violently taken away” (21:25). Yitzhaq: “Why do you come to me, seeing you hate me, and have sent me away from you?” (26:27). Yet there are essential differences between the two visits: When Abimelekh came to Abraham, he immediately revealed his intention to draw a covenant. Abraham agreed to the covenant, and only after it he reproved Abimelekh. Yiẓḥaq was the one to start the exchange, he was attacking his guest, and almost drove him away: “Why did you come… ?”. Only then did Abimelekh offer his covenant. Abraham’s anger was focused on a localized action, the blocking of the wells; whereas Yiẓḥaq, the one who had been sent away, saw no reason for a connection with the king. Whereas Abimelekh came to Abraham at Be’er Sheva when the well was already dug, and all the ritual of oath was held over it, including the seven ewe lambs that Abraham gave as witness; Yiẓḥaq received the news about the finding of water only after the coming of Abimelekh, albeit “it came to pass the same day”, as if the finding of water was a consequence of the covenant, an agreement and confirmation from on high. Abraham called the well Be’er Shevạ because of the oath – Shevu’ah – and Yiẓḥaq called the well Shiv’ạh – seven – because it was found at Be’er Sheva.
Abraham made a covenant, and swore to be faithful to Abimelekh and to his progeny, as well as to “the land in which thou hast sojourned” (21:23). Yiẓḥaq made a direct covenant with Abimelekh alone: “Let there be now an oath between us, between us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee” (26:28).
6. Yiẓḥaq’s 3 Wells, the 3-fold structure of Bereshit and destiny of the 3 Temples.
The relationship of Yiẓḥaq with the Philistines is the key to the question of the wells. “And Yiẓḥaq dug again the wells of water, which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father; for the Plishtim (Philistines) had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he called their names after the names which his father had called them” (26:18). This is already the second mention of the wells and their stoppage by the Philistines, and their names are mentioned, but not given. But then the wells are mentioned for the third time and in greater detail, and their names are apparently not former names, but new names that reflect the events associated with them. We learn that the servants of Yiẓḥaq dug wells. The first two instigated a struggle between the shepherds of Yiẓḥaq and the shepherds of Gerar and Yiẓḥaq was forced to give them up, therefore he called them `Ẹseq (contention) for they hit’ạsqu (strove) with him, and Sitnah (hatred, the quality of Satan – the Adversary). After these two struggles Yiẓḥaq did not despair and give up, but “And he removed from there, and dug another well; and for that they strove not; and he called the name of it Reḥovot (wide open), and he said, For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land. And he went up from there to Be’er-Sheva” (26:22-23). At Be’er Sheva the Lord was revealed to Yiẓḥaq and there he dug a further well – that was the well where water was found right after the new covenant he made with the Philistines.
We find here, again, the characteristic Biblical structure of “three and four”. The story repeats three times but each time there are details added and the role of action increases. In the third account three wells are mentioned, and the third well is restitution for the former two attempts that failed – much like that after the first two attempts to construct humankind, with Adam and with No’aḥ, there was made a third attempt through Abraham and his progeny.
In his commentary to the Book Genesis, the Ramban (Nachmanides, one of the greatest Torah interpreters and a Mequbal, from the 13th century) draws parallels between the wells that Yiẓḥaq dug (26:18-22) and the three Temples of Jerusalem:
“And he called the name of the well Ẹseq” – the text gives a very lengthy account about the wells, and there is nothing in the literal story that gives benefit and no glory to Yiẓḥaq, as he and his father did this equally. But there is a hidden thing in it, because it came to give a future message, because ‘a well of living water’ is a hint to the House of God that the children of Yiẓḥaq would make, and that is why there was mentioned a well of living water, as is written “they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters” (Jer. 17:13). And the first one was called Ẹseq, this is a hint to the First Temple where they strove with us and made several confrontations and several wars until they destroyed it. And the second was called Sitnah-hatred, a more difficult name than the first, and this (parallels) the Second Temple that was called as it is written, “And in the rein of Aḥashverosh, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote to him an accusation – Sitnah – against the inhabitants of Yehudah and Yerushalayim (Jerusalem)” (Ezra 4:6), and during all its history they were of hatred – Sitnah – until they destroyed it and there was a bad exile. And the third was called Reḥovot, and this is the future House that may be built soon in our days, and it will be made without quarrel and strife, and the Lord will enlarge - yarḥiv - our borders, as it is written “And if the Lord thy God enlarge - yarḥiv - thy border, as He has sworn….” (Deut. 19:8) which pertains to the future, and it is written about the Third Temple “And the side chambers were broader as one circled higher and higher” (Ezekiel 41:7), and we shall multiply in the land, all nations will call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord (following Zephaniah 3:9).
The two first temples were damaged because of the envy of the nations and their hatred, whereas the Third Temple, according to the Ramban, is likely to be a desire and a blessing for all the nations, who would encourage Israel to build it.
The third well signaled the end of the struggle with “the Philistines”, and when we contemplate the message enfolded in the Torah with regard to our times and to the building of the Third Temple in our times, it seems that the possibility of building the temple would be when there comes the reconciliation with the Philistines-Palestinians of our time.
7. Ẹsav’s First Wives, Yehudit and Bosmat.
The continuity of the story is suddenly disturbed, with a little story about Ẹsav and his wives. Only two short sentences are given, but they contain further hints. The wives of Ẹsav were from the people of the land (“Am ha’Areẓ”), daughters of the Hittites, “and they were grief of mind to Yiẓḥaq and Rivqah” (26:35). This served as added inducement for Jews, through the generations, to berate Esav and his deeds. Yet the name “Yehudit” (Judith, and literally “Jewess”), as the name of his first wife, hints that one needs to meditate further on understanding Ẹsav’s deeds and wives.
We shall relate to the complex of the meanings of Ẹsav’s wives when we get to the description of his third wife.
8. Ya’ạqov’s masquerading for Ẹsav and receiving the Blessing
The passage of Ya’ạqov’s impersonating Ẹsav is one of the stranger and of the psychologically deepest. This is perhaps the Biblical root for the festival of Purim, an important holiday that is integral to the Jewish holiday cycle, yet on the face of it is not mentioned at all in the Torah.
Psychologically, it is evident that the impersonator unconsciously covets the qualities of the person he impersonates, which are lacking for - or suppressed by – him. It is not only Yiẓḥaq who preferred Ẹsav to Ya’ạqov. Also, Ya’ạqov is envious of his brother and desires to be like him. In the wider cultural perspective, the characters in the Biblical narrative kind of resurrect and turn up again and again, and are but different aspects of the Universal Man. According to this understanding, Ya’ạqov is Shem and Esav is Yefet in another incarnation. The sons of Shem – who is Israel – envy the practical skill - Ma’ạsy - of Ẹsav, and the beauty - Yofi – of Yefet. Esav is also hairy, and the hair is considered in the Bible as especially attractive, a motive that would return in the figures of Shimshon-Samson and of David’s beloved son Avshalom.
The idea of impersonation did not come from Ya’ạqov. The mother, who must have known well her son’s qualities and shortcomings, is the one who conceived the idea. Rivqah took upon herself the role of Ẹsav, the practical person, which her favorite son – the plain man dweller of tents – was not capable of performing. She planned the deception, took the whole responsibility upon herself, and cooked the savory food.
Here returns the motive of food, as condition for temptation, which echoes the story of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Ya’ạqov extracted the seniority birthrights from Ẹsav through the temptation of the lentil pottage; Yiẓḥaq was capable of bestowing a blessing on his son only after he would eat the savory food that he loved. Rivqah promised Ya’ạqov to obtain him the father’s blessing, through her preparing for Yiẓḥaq the dainty foods that he loved, and so she did and gave in her son’s hands. When Ya’ạqov went to the fateful meeting with his father in which he could gain the blessing – but also might receive a terrible curse if the ploy would be discovered – he went there holding the food and the bread in his hand, like the pilgrim who comes to the temple and the offerings with him.
Yiẓḥaq suspected that something is not right. He wondered how his son returned so soon from the exhausting hunt. He asked to touch the approaching son. In the extroverted culture, the sense of sight is the dominant sense, but like other blind people, the blind Yiẓḥaq developed the other senses: hearing, touch and smell. He easily recognized that “the voice is Ya’ạqov’s voice”, and his suspicion increased. He had to feel by touch. “But the hands are the hands of Ẹsav”, yes, but Yiẓḥaq’s wondering continued. There were two false elements (too short a time, Ya’ạqov’s voice), against the true one of furry feeling of his body. Yiẓḥaq needed a further sense examination, and he therefore asked the son to come and kiss him. Only the smell convinced him, and the smell became the root of the blessing: “See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed” (27:27). Yiẓḥaq, who had walked in the field, and fell in love in the field, and loved his son, the man of the field – he drew near, through the savory food and the smell, to “the field which the Lord has blessed”, the Garden of Eden (“The Orchard of the Holy Apples” in the language of the Mequbalim), and from there he could draw the blessings.
The blessing was a twin one: blessing for fertility of the land and a blessing of rule: Rule over nations and states and rule over brothers from the womb, like Ẹsav, and brothers only from a father, like Ishmael and the sons of the bondwomen. This was the blessing that eventually Yoseph-Joseph would covet, and with that would get entangled with his brothers; and this was the blessing that Ya’aqov would give his son Yehudah-Judah. (There is a difference that must derive from the particularities of the story: Ya’ạqov, who was one of a pair of twins, is blessed: “and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee” (27:29); Judah, that six of his brothers were not brothers from his mother, is blessed: “thy father’s children shall bow down before thee” (Gen. 48:8).)
The blessing for fertility and yield of the land is not contested. It is a straight blessing. But the blessing that gives a rule over brothers, is blessing mixed with a curse. He who is granted this blessing is simultaneously cursed with the hatred of the rest of his brothers. Ya’ạqov would be contending with the consequences of this problematic blessing for his whole life, and only on his deathbed – in his blessing for Judah – would he solve the conflict.
But would Yiẓḥaq also suffer because of that blessing? Was Yiẓḥaq really cheated, or did he perhaps give his hand to the continuation of the masquerade, as commanded by his demanding name?
We have already argued (“What did Yiẓḥaq laugh about?” in our chapter on Parashat va’yera) that Yiẓḥaq, as he laid bound to the altar on Mount Moriah, was observing the ironic turnabouts of future history, and thus he must have also been observing his sons, who are turning into each other. Perhaps he had already forgotten, but when the ch Ẹsaeated Ẹsav came to him, Yiẓḥaq could understand the irony of history, and confirmed, post-facto the outcome, saying to Ẹsav about Ya’ạqov: “moreover, he shall be blessed” (27:33).
Yet it is also possible that the turn-about fitted something deeper in him. Ẹsav was for Ya’ạqov what Yishma’el was for Yiẓḥaq: a sort of “Alter Ego”. Yiẓḥaq might have felt guilt about Yishma’el, who was sent away from his father’s house and his estate for Yiẓḥaq’s sake, and this guilt affected his favoring of Ẹsav. The swindle of Rivqah and Ya’aqov enabled Yiẓḥaq to bless Ya’ạqov without guilt feelings, where Rivqah was taking the responsibility of that act upon herself.
9. Ya’ạqov’s Exit and Ẹsav’s marriage with Yishma’el’s Daughter
In this Parashah, the conflict and competition among the brothers reaches its summit. Esav was scheming to kill his brother. The disentangling of this knot – even if partially – was postponed for the time being, until the return of Ya’ạqov to the land, at Parashat va’Yishlaḥ.
At this juncture, while the conflict between Esav and Ya’aqov was at its peak – Esav was doing something that would endear him to his parents: due to the sending out of Ya’aqov to Ḥaran to get married, the wives of Esav come again under scrutiny, being of the native (Ạm ha’Areẓ) Ḥittites and grievous to his father and mother. Ẹsav tried to redress the problem by marrying the daughter of his uncle Yishma’el.
This incident brings up again the problem of the settlement and assimilation of the sons of Abraham in the land. This was already the second generation to prefer marrying inside the family and not to mix with the native people of the land. We have not seen any such command from God, so we must assume that the root of this pattern is the fears of the family of Abraham. Are there echoes to the perennial struggle between the wanderer and the fixed dweller? Or was it a matter of economic standing? Or perhaps, much as we are today warned not to marry within our families from fear of degeneration, perhaps the assumption at those times was that one aught to intermarry in the family and thereby conserve the family genes? (See Abraham’s argument: “she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother”; 20:12). In any case, Ẹsav acted as “the good boy”, who wants to please his parents, by marrying his cousin over his two Canaanite wives.
The Bible continues, also in the next Parashot to describe Ẹsav as the positive – albeit marginal – character in the plot. When we read the Torah in a search for the whole (instead the common tendency to select and narrow down, and to use the Torah as a Tree of Knowledge, instead of as a Tree of Life), we can realize that it is the combination of the attributes of the sons, in each of the families that take part in the struggles the Book of Genesis describes (Qayin-Cain and Hevel-Abel; Yishma’el and Yiẓḥaq; Ẹsav and Ya’ạqov), that carries in it a complete solution for the problems of humankind at their times.
In the story of Ya’ạqov ans Ẹsav, this possibility is brought almost explicitly. Yiẓḥaq, about to bless his son and feeling befuddled, said “the voice is Ya’ạqov’s, and the hands are the hands of Ẹsav”. This is the combination that is worthy of blessing: the voice of the scholarly Ya’ạqov, a plain man dweller of tents, unified in action with the good hands of Ẹsav, who knows hunting and “smells like the field”. This is apparently also the figure of “Yisra’el” whom the Lord chooses to bless. “Yisra’el” should have contained these two complementary sides, and Ya’ạqov gained the title of “Yisrael” “because thou hast cntended with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (32:29). It was the ability for action and withstanding in strife - for a whole night struggle – which transformed Ya’ạqov into “Yisra’el”. (The sages, who identify the mysterious Ish (man, person) with whom Ya’ạqov contended with “the Lord of Ẹsav” are also hinting that only through encounter with the complementing, but estranged, part in oneself, may Ya’aqov (or any person) to a complete human being (Ben-Adam).
10. The Exiles of Ya’ạqov and Ẹsav, Exiles in Edom and in Ishmael
The long history of the scions of the Biblical Fathers, created a whole line of interactions between those identified as “Children of Abraham”: Ishmaelite, Israelites and Edomites; especially over the land which in the original story they fought to inherit:
Before the realization of the promises of God to Abraham, about the great inheritance that his progeny – the inheritance of the land – they still had a “promissory note”. As God told Abraham: “Know surely that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them for four hundred years…and afterwards shall they come out with a great substance” (15:13-14).
Assuming that the inheriting son was – as promised – Yiẓḥaq, rather than Yishma’el, one of the sons of Yiẓḥaq was supposed to leave for a long exile. The long tradition of the sons of Ya’ạqov, regards Ya’ạqov as the exiled son.
In order to resolve the confusion over the calculation that the exile in Egypt lasted for just 210 years, the commentators bring up all sorts of calculations: Thus Rashi computes the exile since already the birth day of Yiẓḥaq. It is evident that the voluntary exile at Padan-Aram, at the house of the uncle Lavan, is considered as a part of the period of exile. The Passover Haggadah comes to show that this exile and the evil intentions of Lavan were much worse than the Egyptians’.
But there is also a different possibility - that the exile fell to the other son, the firstborn, namely Esav. Rashi considers this possibility, and explains the evacuation by Esav of the land West of the Jordan valley “away from his brother Ya’aqov” (36:6), as if Esav left it for his brother, Ya’ạqov, to pay the outstanding bill: “because of the bill of the decree that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs… he said, I shall go away from here. I have neither part in the present… nor in paying for the bill…” (Rashi’s commentary for Genesis 36:6).
If in giving up on inheritance in the land there was a will of Esav to avoid exile, as Rashi presumes, then on the other hand this giving up meant leaving on exile in practice. It is even possible to claim that the exile of Edom continued until there came the pre-Islamite Ishmaelites, the Nabatian Arabs (“Benei Nevayot”), and pushed Edom back to the South of Judea, the historic estate of the Tribe of Shim’on, which has meanwhile been totally assimilated in Judah.
Concerning Yishma’el’s inheritance rights, the expulsion of the Edomites from the eastern side of the Jordan was fully justified: for the Children of Yishma’el should have received - according to the promise of God to Abraham – the whole land east of the Jordan, from the River of Egypt to the river Euphrates: at the covenant to Abraham, he was promised “To thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Miẓrayim (Egypt) to the great river, the river Perat (Euphrates)” (Gen. 15:18). Whereas after the birth of Yishma’el, when God first announced to Abraham about the future birth of Yiẓḥaq-Isaac, and promised “I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (Gen. 17:19), then the estate that his seed is destined to inherit has already been reduced to “the land in which thou hast sojourn, all the Land of Kena’ạn (Canaan)” (17:8).
It is possible that here is rooted one of the great historical mistakes. The Hashmonean Jewish kings/presidents of the 2nd Temple period had conquered the native Edomites, forced them to assimilate in Judea, and did not allow them to chose their own Israeli-tribal identity. But both Edom and Ishmael were founded as twelve-tribe federation (as the ancient Israel), ruled by presidents-Nesi’im (of Yishma’el) or commanders-Alufim (of Edom). That was a missed opportunity to return to the greatness of the Kingdom of the Whole Israel, the Kingdom of David and Shelomoh-Solomon.
About two generations after the transfer of the Edomites to the region of Judea and Shim’on, west of the Jordan rift valley, these new Edomite estates were conquered by Yoḥanan Hurkanos, the Hashmonean High Priest and Nasi-president, who forced the Edomites to convert to the covenant of Abraham, if they wanted to live in the land. This way, the children of Ishmael and of Israel have, together, annihilated the original sons of Esav, who became assimilated in Judea-Judah. There were among those Jewish scions-of-Esav those who excelled in their practical skills. Thus Antipater the Edomite was a marked warrior, and his son, Herod, became the King of Judea and built the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which competed in its glory with the Temple of Solomon-Shelomoh.
But King Herod reigned under the protection of Rome, and the sages – who detested Herod – turned to perform sort of a “resurrection of the dead”, evoked the memory of Edom who disappeared by becoming assimilated in Judah, and named by it their enemy and foreign ruler – Rome. This way, the Roman Empire became “The Evil Kingdom of Edom”.
Within not so many years, that “Edom” conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the Temple. In its practical manner, Rome wanted to obliterate also the name of the Kingdom of Judea, and therefore (in the time of the Emperor Hadrian) turned to a similar type of “resurrection of the dead” and resurrected the “Philistines”. The Land of “Judea” was turned into “Palestina” – the Land of the Philistines – where jews were forbidden to dwell, and the people who changed their religion to stay there became Palestinians.
In the course of history, the Jews of Judea were dispersed in “The Exile of Edom”, an exile not announced by the prophets, and in which the Jews stubbornly considered themselves not merely exiled among the foreign gentiles but, in a certain sense, exiled in the land of their hated kindred sons of Edom-Esav. The paradox grew even more, when in the process almost all the people of the ancient world came to identify themselves as “The Children of Abraham” (according to prevailing Christian belief since saint Paul), and Judah (who regard themselves as “Israel-Yisra’el”, but call themselves just “Judah” or “Jew”) lived as sojourners among them, without rights, on a status of “small and despised” whose sole role (according to the Christian theologian Augustine) to serve for derision for not having recognized the new God.
In his book “Two nations in your womb – perceptions of Jews and Christians”, researcher Yisra’el Ya’aqov Yuval shows that the images in the Book of Isaiah about God’s revenge on Edom: “Who is this that comes from Edom, with crimsoned garments from Botsra? … Why is thy apparel red, and thy garments like his that treads in the winepress? (And God answers) I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was none with me: for I have trodden them in my anger, and trampled them in my fury; and their blood was sprinkled upon my garments” (63:1-6), became among the Jews of the Christian lands (Ashkenaz) the chief image of the End of Days, when God would avenge the Christians: “in the Ashkenazi poetry and chronicles the revenge was transformed from a juridical event to a universal drama, which is in the heart of the Messianic process. The essence of the redemption was not the Return to Zion…. Or a vision of peace in the world…. Their place was taken by the vision of the revenge upon the gentiles, which became the central idea. From the strength of this revenge would come the messianic world transformations, in which the Kingdom of Edom would be removed from the face of the earth”. Compared with the Ashkenazi Jewry, the Spanish Jewry, who lived under the Moslems and first did not suffer that much under the Christians, to regard the redemption not as a revenge but as a healing and conversion of the nations. Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (of Spain) declared in his commentaries to the Bible that the Edom mentioned in the messianic prophecies of revenge is the Biblical Edom and not Rome.
Such Jewish interpretations of the scriptures came apparently as response, or re-adopted with vengeance as response, to the opposite Christian interpretation – which regarded Judaism as Esau and Christianity as Jacob. Such an attitude is expressed, for example in the epistle of Paul to the Galatians (4:22-31) in the New Testament:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman, and one by the free woman. But the son of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son of the free woman through the promise… And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also… So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.
Paul managed to found a new world religion that was based on his interpretations of the scriptures. At one of the church fathers, Ireneus, (against the heretics 4:21) there is already a clear typological identification of Esav with the Jews and of Jacob with the Christian Church. The verse “two nations in thy womb” is, according to him, a hint for the two nations destined to rise from the common father: the Jews and the Christians. Just as Jacob gained the birthright and Esau despised it, so the young nation (the Christians) received Jesus, whereas the older nation (the Jews) rejected him. Ireneus compared the life of Jacob-Ya’ạqov to the life of Jesus, where the strongest parallel between them were the persecution and suffering experienced by both.
In fact, it is not self-evident which of the twin-religions - Judaism and Christianity - is the older. Ostensibly, Judaism is the older religion, and this is also how Christianity regarded it. But the truth of the mater is that the Judaism that we know, Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism was formed at the very same period that Christianity formed, and the canonical book of Rabbinical Judaism - the Talmud, “the Oral Torah” – is actually younger than the books of the Christian canon “the New Testament”, much as the (written) Jewish Midrash is younger than the Christian Midrash.
It should be noted that the Jewish interpretation that identifies Esav with Rome was born at the beginning of the 2nd century, before the Bar-Kokhbah revolt and is mentioned by Rabbi Ạqiva (Akiva), who lived three generations after Paul. The researchers deduce that the Jewish interpretation came as response to the Christian interpretation, which tried to own the figure of Jacob-Ya’ạqov.
These two contradictory interpretations illustrate what was said by the sages about the Second Temple “Second Temple… why was it destroyed? Because there was in it vain hatred (sin’at ḥinam) (Bavli, Yoma 9b). At the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, the discord between the Christian Jerusalem Church (which was still a Jewish sect) and the Rabbinic-Pharisee Judaism amplified, and the discord amplified yet more after the destruction, when Christianity was no longer Jewish at all. It is hard to understand why was Esav so hated and rejected at that very period – when the Edomites were part and parcel of the Jews, it was Herod the Edomite who built the Temple, and among the most zealots of the defenders of Jerusalem against Rome were the offspings of the Edomites.
Ya’ạqov, Ẹsav and the 3rd Temple – Jewish-Christian Cooperation.
From the parallels brought earlier, we may learn that the Third Temple, the future one, will be built when there will be peace and reconciliation among Israel and the nations, and especially among the sons of Ya’ạqov and of Esav, and between the sons of the Philistines and of Judah. But while the Bible does not mention the Philistines again until the exodus from Egypt (and even at the Exodus, the emphasis is on separation from the Philistines “God led them not through the way of the land of the Plishtim-Philistines, although that was near, for God said, Lest the people repent when they see war, and they return to Miẓrayim-Egypt”; Exodus 13:17), the development of the relationship of Ya’ạqov and Ẹsav will continue to be an important topic also in Parashat va’Yishlaḥ, in which Ya’ạqov and Ẹsav reconcile, and by the end of the Parashah, they both participate in the burial of their father Yiẓḥaq (Gen. 35:29). The relationship between Ya’aqov and Esav, the twin brothers, are much closer than the relationship between Yehudah-Judea and Pleshet-Palestine. It is thus likely that the process of reconciliation that can lead to the building of the Third Temple may start with reconciliations between Jews and Christians as members of the future Universal Israel. Yet both sides will have to recognize that their aim, the building of the Temple of Yoru-Shalem (teaching Wholeness), would not be actualized until there will be made a place also for the Philistines-Palestinians within the whole alignment of their covenant.
 “The Myth of Eternal Return”, Princeton U. Press/Bollingen 1954, 1997. (Also by Harper Torchbook Paperbacks as “Cosmos and History”).
 See John Michell’s books “How the World is Made – the Story of Creation According to Sacred Geometry” appendix about Atlantis, and “Dimensions of Paradise” chapter about the cities of Plato.
 This word is often written Merkabah (or Mer-Ka-Ba) and means in Hebrew “Chariot”, or “Assembly work” (from harkev – to assemble). “Ma’ạse Merkavah” was the chief form of Jewish mysticism for many centuries, and its practitioners were Yorde Merkavah – “Descenders of the Chariot”.
 There was also a government that five of its members were called Yiẓḥaq.
 E.g. Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6; Proverbs 30:18, 21, 29.
 In Isaiah 11:3 there is a description of the Messiah’s manner of Judgment. This is generally translated as: “And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge by what his eyes see, nor decide by what his ears hear”. The original Hebrew, however, starts with va’hariho be’Yir’at YHWH – “He will smell (or be made to smell) according to the awe of the Lord”. So this has been understood by many Jewish commentators to mean that the messiah will judge not by sight or hearing, but by smelling (e.g. could “smell a rat”). This is the most instinctive, intimate and intuitive sensing, and that was Yiẓḥaq’s judgment concerning his sons.
 In the sequel we shall treat the assertion of the researcher Y.Y. Yovel, that the text of the Haggadah is an apologetic debate with Edom.
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