Toldot – Of Voice and Hands
The twins are born with Esau having an immediate advantage of both being the first to be born as well as being more developed physically. Jacob, patiently biding his time, eventually secures one of the two advantages as his own. Sold for a song, a pot of lentils, the birthright became the possession of Jacob. Now Esau had only a physical advantage over him.
It is unclear whether Isaac was aware that Esau gave up the birthright to Jacob, or whether he disapproved. Regardless, when it came time to pass on the legacy of his father and bestow the blessings upon his son, Esau was his choice.
Esau is not the son we would intuit as the appropriate recipient of these blessings. Our tradition portrays Esau as irresponsible and brutish to say the least. According to one Midrashic account Isaac’s eyesight was dimmed due to the smoke of the incense burnt by the wives of Esau to their pagan deities. Jacob is also criticized as being a devious schemer. He took advantage of Esau when the man was helpless. That may be true but who could blame him? In a cosmic battle for the destiny of Abraham’s legacy Jacob could not sit by while Esau made a train wreck of it. On the contrary, it was Esau who ridiculed the birthright as having no value to him.
Rebecca takes Jacob’s side. She sees Jacob as the worthy heir to Abraham’s legacy. The Torah is explicit with this difference of perspective between Isaac and Rebecca. “And Isaac loved Esau for game was in his mouth, but Rebecca loved Jacob.” (genesis 25:28)
The Torah is upfront with this discrimination and unseemly parenting by Isaac and Rebecca. It offers no apologies, just states it as fact.