I see a lot of questions on the topic, but maybe not one that is this specific. I'd like to know, when Yaakov Avinu (with Rivka his mother) went to fool Yitzchak and get the brachos, is there evidence from Chazal or Rishonim that he was doing exactly the right thing?
To explain the question a little more:
a) I am not ח"ו suggesting that Yaakov Avinu did a terrible thing, was a bad person at the time, anything like that. I am asking if this is a similar example to what Chazal say about Avraham Avinu when he said, במה אדע (or a couple of other possibilities in Nedarim 32a), and as a result our nation needed to go down into Mitzrayim for hundreds of years as a tikkun. Avraham Avinu was an incredible tzaddik beyond our understanding, and any mistake he made was something that would only be counted against a tzaddik on his level. Still, Chazal do say it there.
b) There is good reason to say something like that, as Chazal do mention a number of very negative consequences to fooling his father, in Midrashim: his being fooled later by Leah, his being fooled later by his sons about Yosef's death, his being punished for failing to do kibbud av v'eim for many years when he had to flee. These sound like מדה כנגד מדה and indeed that phrase is used on at least one of them. Are these the equivalent of the Chazal about Avraham Avinu?
However, some acharonim go out of their way to push these away, that they are not evidence of any wrong-doing, but simply consequences, some things Yaakov had to suffer through even though he had done exactly right.
c) Rivka told him to do it? Of course, he was a tzaddik, she was a tzadeikis, so that doesn't seem to do more than move the question over to her. But she seems to be acting out of nevuah (Bereishis 27:13 עלי קללתך - some explain that she knew he would succeed). I don't think we believe that a neviah can't do anything wrong, but - I would accept evidence that she heard from nevuah that he was supposed to do this, exactly this.
Same with Rashi on Bereishis 27:1, "Yitzchak's vision became dimmed, because... דבר אחר, כדי שיטול יעקב את הברכות - in order that Yaakov should take the berachos." But it might mean, certainly must include, "in order that Yaakov should be able to take the berachos".
d) For this suggestion to make any sense, I guess I'd need to offer an alternative: What else was he supposed to do? It would be a disaster for Esav to get the brachos, and (see Drashos Haran, can't remember where) it seems that Yitzchak indeed had the power to give them to him!
I would think that the alternative would need to be, like everywhere else in Sefer Bereishis: You are supposed to trust in Hashem and not use force to gain advantage over your brother. Yitzchak Avinu was a navi too - even blind and fooled by his son. Maybe you couldn't really fool him! See here: He needed to be fed mat'amim, or he couldn't bless the unworthy Esav. When Yaakov came in, he smelled Gan Eden. The blessing he actually gave Yaakov was directly based on what he sensed: 'ראה, ריח בני כריח השדה אשר ברכו ה... ("See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that G-d blessed...") When Esav finally did come in, Yitzchak sensed gehinnom.
Maybe Jewish history would have been different if Esav had tried to get the blessings straight, and saw that Yitzchak just couldn't give them to him. Maybe Esav could have found his way home.
Anyhow - that's the question. Is this incorrect, and who says so?
Addendum: I discuss a lot of this here Bitachon and Hishtadlus, Yosef, Yaakov and Rivkah.

  • Once Eisav sold the claim to being firstborn, then Ya'akov, by getting those brachot must have done the right thing.
    – rosends
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 15:51
  • 1
    Of course he was supposed to get the brachos. The question was, Did he need to do it by fooling his father?
    – MichoelR
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 15:52
  • 1
    It is worth noting Bereishis Rabbah 67:12 as well - sefaria.org/… that says that a person should not think that if Yaakov had not deceived Yitzchak he wouldn't have received the brachos! I.e. he would have got them anyway which strengthens your question....
    – Dov
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 16:26
  • Thank you, Dov, that's interesting. Rashi quotes that on 27:33, and I wondered if that was evidence, if Rashi's wording was clear enough.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 16:53
  • I haven't checked this, but someone once told me that Sforno is critical of Rivka and said that she did the wrong thing by getting Yaakov to do this, that Yitzchak knew exactly what he was doing, and that the bracha may have actually encouraged Esav to mend his ways and be a worthy partner to Yaakov in a Yissachar/Zevulun type arrangement. Commented Jan 1 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


Targum Onkelos

וַאֲמַרַת לֵיהּ אִמֵּיהּ עֲלַי אִתְאֲמַר בִּנְבוּאָה דְּלָא יֵיתוֹן לְוָטַיָּא עֲלָךְ בְּרִי בְּרַם קַבֵּיל מִנִּי וְאִיזֵיל סַב לִי.

Chizkuni connects the curse to the nevuah that Rivkah received from Shem

עלי קללתך בני – אין לי ולך לירא מן הקללה שהרי בטוחה אני כמה שאמר הקב״ה ורב יעבד צעיר (בראשית כ״ה:כ״ג).1

Other meforshim coonect to Targum Onkelos as well

Rav Hirsch points out that it was actually Rivkah who determined that this was necessary and commanded Yaakov to do this. Rav Hirsch say in Toldos 27:1

Jacob's behavior is completely clear and transparent. Right from the beginning his mother appealed for his blind obedience to her orders.

Indeed, Rav Hirsch points out, that Rivkah intended from the very beginning that Yitzchak would realize what she had done. It was the very crudeness of the trick that opened Yitzchak's eyes to the problem of Eisav.

And altogether, how crude was the whole comedy, a couple of goat skins, what but the most absolute naivete could be taken in by that! What could her intention have been by playing such a comedy? What else but the comedy itself! Only thus, if just the inevitable discovery was what was beforehand reckoned on, only then does the whole story make sense, and, from Rebecca's point of view, become understandable, and - even if not completeley approved of - in the circumstances, quite excusable. Thanks to @robev for pointing to the Vilna Gaon as the source of the following. As she says in Toldos 77:13

וַתֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ אִמּ֔וֹ עָלַ֥י קִלְלָֽתְךָ֖ בְּנִ֑י אַ֛ךְ שְׁמַ֥ע בְּקֹלִ֖י וְלֵ֥ךְ קַח־לִֽי:

ע - עשו ל - לבן י - יוסף

Partners in Torah explains

In Hebrew, the word for “upon me” is “Alai” [Ayin, Lamed, Yud]. These letters are an acrostic for the names, Esau, Laban, Yosef (Joseph), and represent the three major instances of hardship that Jacob would suffer in his lifetime. His mother reassured him that this decision would indeed bear consequences, but they would be nothing more than the following three examples. – Gaon of Vilna

In a shiur discussing this, I was told that each of these three were already decreed to be the sufferings of Yaakov and would have happened in any case. Also, each of these show the reason why Yaakov needed to get the bracha himself rather than allow Yitzchak to make the mistake of giving the material bracha to Eisav. Thus, Rivka knew that Yitzchak would realize his mistake. Indeed, in Toldos 27:33 Yitzchak says

גַּם־בָּר֖וּךְ יִֽהְיֶֽה:

As Rashi says Yaakov was indeed the one who needed to get the bracha.

He, too, shall be blessed: That you should not say that had Jacob not deceived his father, he would not have received the blessings. Therefore, he concurred and blessed him intentionally (Gen. Rabbah 67:2).

Rav Hirsch explains that Yitzchak wanted the two brothers to maintain the family with Eisav being the material leader and Yaakov being the spiritual leader. He wanted the two brothers to be as united as the 12 shvatim were going to be. He wanted Eisav to be in the position of Yehudah (the kings) and Yaakov to be in the position of Levi (the priests). Unfortunately, Eisav would not have allowed himself to give Yaakov the equivalent of terumah and ma'aser and was not worthy of being the king of the family. As Rav Hirsch says on Toldos 27:37:

For now it had become clear to him, how in the Abrahamic nation, everything and everybody, soldiers, merchants, etc. too, have to be filled with the Abrahamic spirit. So that he no longer saw any position in the House of Abraham for Esau.

Rav Hirsch points out that Rivkah realized, having grown up with Lavan that Eisav could not be allowed to control the material well-being of the family. Eisav himself realized that he did not deserve the bracha that Yitzchak had reserved for Yaakov.

  • Rav Hirsch is an excellent source, but not what was asked (Chazal or Rishonim).
    – robev
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 19:02
  • This is interesting, but note that I specifically asked for evidence from Chazal or Rishonim. I knew that there are a number of later authorities who do not learn this way. - Ah, robev beat me to it!
    – MichoelR
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 19:02
  • "Each of these three were already decreed to be the sufferings of Yaakov and would have happened in any case." How do you know that? Perhaps they were a consequence of this particular course of action?
    – MichoelR
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 19:05
  • @MichoelR Unfortunately I do not recall where I learned this. I had learned this in a shiur on Toldos in the past. Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 20:34
  • The Vilna Gaon is attributed with the idea that עלי stands for עשו, לבן and יוסף. IIRC he says it was a consequence of Yaakov deceiving his father.
    – robev
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 20:40

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