Shabbat Toledot 5783

This past Monday, we had the first topical session of our adult education class on Jewish ethics. Using the book Modern Musar: Contested Virtues in Jewish Thought, we explored a variety of attitudes in modern Jewish thought to the topic of honesty and love of truth. And the timing couldn’t have been better, since this is the week where the Biblical character whose name our People will eventually take perpetrates an outright lie.

in Parshat Toledot, Ya’akov, on the strong advice of his mother Rivkah, deceives his sight-impaired father, Yitzhak, into giving him the blessing of the firstborn. In order to do so, he must dress clumsily as his older twin brother, Esav, bringing his father a meal of his requested delicacy. His smooth arms are covered by goat skin, a pathetic attempt to dress up as his hairy brother. When he announces himself to his father, Yitzhak seems confused, and asks which of his sons is there. Ya’akov answers: “I am Esau, your first-born; I have done as you told me. Pray sit up and eat of my game, that you may give me your innermost blessing” (Genesis 27:19).
How does classical Jewish interpretation deal with this ironically bald-faced lie? Were the sages comfortable with Ya’akov’s clear violation of the truth? On Shabbat morning, we will see what Rashi did with this verse, and consider his and other thoughts on truth and falsehood. Maybe that will entice more people to join us in the Modern Musar class!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise
Candle lighting: 4:12 PM
Torah Reading: Genesis 25:19-28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7