This week’s Torah reading focuses on the gulf that existed between Yaakov and Eisav, as became apparent in the sale of Eisav’s firstborn rights to Yaakov. Eisav came home tired, and noticed that Yaakov had prepared a stew of lentils. The Sages tell us that Avraham had died on that day, and Yaakov had cooked a stew of lentils, which is the food typically served mourners. The ravished Eisav cavalierly sold his birthright for a stew of lentils, thereby transferring Avraham and Yitzchak’s blessings and the first-born rights to Yaakov.
Why did Yaakov want to buy the first-born rights from Eisav? G-d had promised Avraham that a great nation would emerge from him that would represent G-d among all the nations of the world. As our Creator would declare to the Jewish people in the future: “You shall be My treasure from among all peoples”, “You will be My kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, “You are children to the L-rd your G-d.”
The members of this chosen nation were proscribed from acting decadently or hedonistically. They must conduct themselves with the refinement befitting a royal family. When Avraham received G-d’s promise, he did not know who would continue his mission, his son Yishmael who was born to Hagar, or his son Yitzchak who was born to Sarah, until G-d told him: “Only Yitzchak will be called your seed.” He is your heir and your successor!
Yitzchak planned to pass on the blessings to his firstborn son Eisav. But when Yaakov saw Eisav “weary”, he realized that the blessing could not go to him. Our sages tell us what had tired out Eisav so much that day: Eisav had committed five grave offenses: murder, rape of an betrothed girl, denial of the resurrection of the dead, denial of G-d and despising his firstborn status in his heart. The Gemara (Bava Batra 16) proves all these things in detail.
Therefore, when Yaakov offered Eisav to sell him the birthright so he, Yaakov, could continue the family mission, Eisav eagerly agreed and Yaakov became the heir apparent. When Yaakov disguised himself and came to receive Yitzchak’s blessings, he wasn’t stealing what wasn’t his. It was Eisav who was deceiving his father by not admitting to him that he was no longer the heir to the family mission since he had sold his birthright. Yaakov had merely received was was truly his.
Rabbi Yonasan Eybeschutz was close to the king, who used to ask him questions on Judaism. Once the king asked him, “I do not understand the Jewish sages. When the verse says that Eisav came 'weary' from the field, the sages explain that he had committed grave sins on the same day, even though the verses don’t explicitly say so. But about King David, who the verse explicitly says about him that he killed Uriah the Hittite and took his wife, they say: “Anyone who says that David sinned is mistaken.” Why? Because they love King David and they don’t love Eisav! They are upholding a double standard by considering David a righteous man and Eisav evil!”
Rabbi Eybeschutz replied: “I'll give you the answer later in our conversation.”
The servants of the king came and served him a regal meal. He took his gold ring off and put it on the table and washed his hands. While the king was eating his meal, and conversing with him, Rabbi Eybeschutz pocketed his ring. At the end of the meal, the king looked for the ring and did not find it.
He immediately called the servant who had cleared the table, and threatened him to admit that he had stole the ring. The servant protested in vain that he was innocent, but the king refused to believe him. Only then did Rabbi Eybeschutz pull the ring out of his pocket and admit with a smile: “I took the ring.” The king was shocked.
“Why did you suspect the servant and not me?” Rabbi Eybeschutz asked the king. “I sat a long time next to you, so you should have suspected me instead of the servant who was only here a few minutes.”
The king replied: “How can I suspect you? I know you well as a decent and righteous person of refined behavior, so who would dream of suspecting you? But since I know that the servant was no sterling character, it was obvious to me that he must be the thief.”
“You answered your question yourself,” Rabbi Eybeschutz told the king. “We don’t suspect King David, because who knew who he was. We also know that Uriah had rebelled against the king, which was why he deserved the death penalty. His wife had also divorced him before he was killed. But Eisav was totally evil and every word of the Torah testifies about him that he perpetrated the worst sins.”