Despite the Dishonor of His Name

Posted by on Dec 3, 2016

What is to dishonor the Name of YHVH? Do we dishonor the Creator’s Name by uttering it, as many believe, or there is something else?

When Yitzhak (Isaac) became old, he called Esav his elder son and said to him to hunt wild game for him and make him a tasty dish in order that he would bless him before he dies. Rivkah (Rebecca) overheard Yitzhak and conspired to change her husband’s blessing. Her plan was her favorite son Ya’akov (Jacob) to replace Esav in the blessing. Ya’akov did all that his mother told him to do in order to trick Yitzhak.

We should note first that in the blessing Ya’akov bestowed on his sons there was no mention of a double portion being given to the older son, nor was there any mention of the covenant land promised to Abraham and to Yitzhak. Therefore, it is important to understand that this blessing was not a deathbed final will, but it was simply a father desiring to bless his son.

Second, we should know that it was not up to Esav and Ya’akov to sell and buy birthright as if they had that authority to do it. It was their father’s right to bestow it.

Also, we should note that it is very possible that Rivkah remembered the prophecy given to her in Gen_25:22-23 that the older should serve the younger and was seeking to fulfill it by whatever means necessary. We should remember that Sarah tried to fulfill the prophecy given to her regarding her only son Yitzhak and consequence her offspring paid and are still paying to this day.

Having said all that we are coming to the moment when Ya’akov entered his father’s tent to steal the blessing. Or, was this his intent?

And Ya’akov said to his father, “I am Esav your first-born, I have done as you said to me. Please rise, sit and eat of my wild game, so that your being might bless me.” (Gen 27:19)

Here we need to say that many of the rabbis, seeking to whitewash Ya’akov’s deed, have found a possible hesitancy not to lie to his father. They point out a possible difference in the punctuation in verse 19:

Jacob approached his father. Isaac asked, “Who are you, my son?” Jacob replied, “I Esau your firstborn,” which could be punctuated in two ways, with different meanings. It could be read, “It is I, Esau, your firstborn,” which is how Jacob hoped Isaac would understand his words. Or, it could be read, “It is I, Esau is your firstborn,” which is a true statement. Thus Jacob fulfilled his mother’s instructions while not telling an outright lie (Rashi; see Mizrachi). The te’amin (cantillation notes) support this second reading, for the pashta above (the final yud of the word anokhi “I” אָנֹכִי֙ ) indicates a slight pause. (VeChur LaZahav).

We should remember that there are no punctuation marks in Hebrew and the cantillation note that supports such a reading is a scribal insertion. That is not to say that their argument is invalid. Nevertheless, regardless of how well-intentioned Ya’akov might have been in that moment, the fact of the matter is that he deceived his father.

But Yitzhak said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because Yehovah your Elohim brought it to me.” (Gen 27:20)

In the translations where we find the explicit Name substituted with “LORD” the real meaning of what Ya’akov said is lost. But when this verse is translated correctly showing the explicit Name, it acquires its real meaning; meaning which we see below.

Nevertheless, with this Ya’akov blew off his disguise. Yitzhak must have caught this because the wicked Esav would have never spoken the Name of his father’s Elohim. Only the righteous Ya’akov could have done that. In Midrash Rabbah we read:

As soon as Jacob said these words, Isaac said to himself: “I know that Esau does not mention the name of the Holy One, blessed be He; since this one does mention Him, he is not Esau but Jacob.” Since Jacob spoke thus, Isaac said to him: “Come near, please, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” (Midrash Rabbah)

Therefore, the deceiving his father was not the worst he did. Not only Ya’akov deceived his father (intentionally or not), but the worst thing he did was that he used falsely the name of YHVH to do it. First he conspired to deceive his father and then he actually did it by using YHVH’s name falsely. Thus, he dishonored and profaned the Name of YHVH. For more insight on what it means to profane the Name, the reader may refer to the article Honor the Name.

Nevertheless, Yitzhak did not recognize him and blessed him (Gen 27:23).

Now, let us summarize what happened in Yitzhak’s tent. Ya’akov disguised as Esav enters his father’s tent to seek blessings. As soon as he opens his mouth to speak, his father is already in doubt whether this is Esav. Yitzhak may be old and with an impaired vision, but he is not a fool. He can still distinguish one from the other.

Yitzhak starts testing him, but Ya’akov makes his crucial mistake as he utters the Name of YHVH, which his brother Esav would never do. This must be enough for Yitzhak to reject him, but something happens and he blesses him instead.

We may ask the question as to how it was possible that Yitzhak was not able to recognize his son Ya’akov. In our help comes the Book of Jubilee where we read in Chapter 26:18:

and he discerned him not, because it was a dispensation from heaven to remove his power of perception and Yitzhak discerned not, for his hands were hairy as his brother Esav’s, so that he blessed him.

What do we learn from the whole story and why it was given to us to know? This is why.

Here we see the mercy of Yehovah Elohim of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’akov. The Highest was merciful and let Yitzhak bless his son Ya’akov despite the dishonor of His Set-apart Name.

Navah
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.