In Breishit 27:36, Esav complains that Ya'akov outsmarted him twice. He took his birthright and his blessing.

I can somewhat validate Esav's complaint about Ya'akov outsmarting him regarding taking the birthright. In a way, Ya'akov took advantage of Esav's "weakness" at the time.

But, since the birthright had been sold to him (it wasn't exactly "taken"), Ya'akov was the firstborn and entitled to get the blessing of the firstborn. If that's so, how did Ya'akov outsmart him on that part?

In other words, the second action is a consequence of the first. It's a package. If Esav wanted to make a correct point, he prob. should have said something like, "He outsmarted me by taking the birthright, and as a result, he got the blessing."

  • This relies on understanding the ayin-kuf-vet root as meaning "outsmarted" or "tricked/took advantage of". Mefarshim like the Haktav V'Hakabala and the Malbim seem to translate the word differently, avoiding your question. Others see it as simple deception (he used deception to take advantage of me) with the second deception being tricking Yitzchak.
    – rosends
    Nov 17, 2017 at 16:16
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    @mevaqesh Some of the family dynamics seems puzzling. Rivka apparently knows about Esav selling the birthright but all this time, says nothing to Yitzhak?
    – DanF
    Nov 19, 2017 at 4:00
  • Seems like a communication problem like Rav Hirsch writes (IIRC).
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 19, 2017 at 4:02
  • Why assume rivka knew? It sounds like she wanted him to get the blessing since she liked him better.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 19, 2017 at 4:04
  • I can only hint to what you didn't take into consideration - Itzhok's love for Eisov. Why would he love that wicked man for 63 years including 23 years of Eisov's marriage to idolatrous wives he suffered so much? Eisov had a chance to make a big return and Yaakov has stolen that opportunity. History could have a different path - Eisov being the father of the 12 tribes and Yaakov being a "Ben Azay" married to the Torah.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 20, 2017 at 1:02

1 Answer 1


Radak (there) explains that besides for taking advantage of his hunger to get the birthright, he was now, once again acting with trickery:

את בכורתי לקח - בנזיד עדשים, כשמצאוני רעב, ואין לך מרמה גדולה מזו, והנה עתה גם כן לקח ברכתי במרמה

The claim seems to be about Yaakov's low down tactics, rather than the question of whether he was technically entitles to the blessings.

The Tanhuma cited by Rashi there indicates that indeed, his second claim was unjustified; that once Ya'akov acquired the status of firstborn that he was entitled to the blessings as well:

התחיל עשו מצעק ויעקבני זה פעמים, אמר לו אביו מה עשה לך, אמר לו את בכורתי לקח, אמר בכך הייתי מצר וחרד שמא עברתי על שורת הדין, עכשיו לבכור ברכתי

Additionally, we can suggest that Esav claimed that the original exchange of the birthright shouldn't have entitled Ya'akov to the blessings; only to general privileges of the firstborn. At the time of the exchange of the birthright, they were unaware that blessings were slated for the firstborn. Accordingly, the exchange was null and void since Esav never intended to forfeit the blessings. Accordingly, in Esav's view, Ya'akov was guilty of two crimes: initially taking advantage of him to get the birthright, and later maintaining his status to get the blessings even though the exchange wasn't meant to include that (See K'li Y'kar here).

  • Thanks for the through analysis. I had trouble understanding Rash"I. I'll try to view Kli Yakar. Is there anyone that explains the notion that because Esav might have been "meshuga" (assuming that he was so tired and famished that he wasn't thinking straight, esp. since he says "I'm about to die") that the selling of the birthright might have been invalid to start?
    – DanF
    Nov 21, 2017 at 16:26
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    @DanF I had the exact same thought! But, I didn't see anyone say that (yet). || When I have the time, I will hopefully add translations, or at least links to English translations. || In the meantime, Rashi is saying that Esav said that Yaakov fooled him twice. Yitshak responds: pray-tell. Esav explains that first he got the birthright, and now he got the blessings. Alright then, says Yitshak, now I feel better knowing that I gave the blessing to the rightful firstborn. | This presentation seems to delegitimise Esav's second complaint, as you suggest in the question.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 21, 2017 at 16:32
  • I think there's a halachic principle based on that idea, that a sale performed when someone is crazed is an invalid sale. There's also a rule (difficult to understand, though) that the Avot performed all the mitzvoth. Of course, the sale concept is derabanan, and I'm unaware of derabanan mitzvoth existing at that time :-)
    – DanF
    Nov 21, 2017 at 19:32
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    @DanF Regarding your first comment, if we say that the initial sale was invalid, then it shouldn't count as Yaakov having taken advantage of him; he gained nothing since it was invalid. Your problem is therefore better dealt with by saying that it was valid, but shouldn't have authorised Yaakov to the berakha.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 21, 2017 at 19:34

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