1998With the help of Rivka's cunning, Yaacov has successfully usurped Esav's blessing. Isaac has either been duped or is pretending to be fooled for Esav's benefit. Meanwhile Esav is demanding to be blessed, even if it means receiving the "consolation bracha".
One Man's Blessing is Another Man's...?
Read the blessing Isaac gives to Esav carefully. (You'll find it in the final paragraph.) Do any questions emerge?
When Esav heard the words of his father, he cried out with a very great and bitter cry, and said to his father: Bless me, me also, father! He said: Your brother came with deceit and took away your blessing. He said: Is that why his name was called Yaakov/Heel-Sneak? For he has now sneaked against me twice: My firstborn-right he took, and now he has taken my blessing
And he said: Haven't you reserved a blessing for me? Yitzhak answered, saying to Esav: Here, I have made him master to you, and all his brothers I have given him as servants, with grain and new-wine I have invested him. So for you, what then can I do, my son? Esav said to his father: Have you only a single blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father! And Esav lifted up his voice and wept.
Then Yitzhak his father answered, saying to him: Behold, from the fat of the earth must be your dwelling-place, from the dew of the heavens above. You will live by your sword, you will serve your brother. But it will be that when you brandish it, you will tear his yoke from your neck.
Your Torah Navigator
1. How does "living by the sword" fit with "serving your brother"?
2. The last line of the blessing "But it will be that when you brandish it, you will tear his yoke from your neck." What does this mean within the context of the blessing? Does it make sense?
From The Perspective Of Nachmanides (The Ramban)
The Torah teaches that Esav is the parent of Edom and rabbinic tradition views the Roman Empire as the heirs of Edom. Rome represents the historic and the still present "oppressor" both from a cultural and political perspective.
Nachmanides lived in 12th century Christian Spain. Christian Spain was part of the Roman Catholic Church and was also considered to be the spiritual heir of Rome and Edom. He interprets the phrase "when you brandish it you will tear his yoke from your neck" as follows:
"When you brandish it (your sword)"-- in the way that you speak, this comes to warn Israel that you should not excessively incite them and plan to do them harm. For then his yoke will be broken and it will fall upon your neck. This is the meaning of the verses (in Deuteronomy 2:4-5)
"And as for the people, command (them), saying: You are (about) to cross the territory of your brothers, the Children of Esav, who are settled in Se'ir. Though they are afraid of you, take exceeding care! Do not stir yourselves up against them, For I will not give you of their land so much as the sole of a foot can tread on..."
Even when it is promised that Esav will serve his brother Yaacov, Nachmanides notices that it is not clear what "serving" means. Esav still lives by the sword from the fat of the land and the dews of the heaven. Later on, Israel is warned not to tread on Esav's land for it does not belong to Israel. How does the blessing come to pass?
By default all minority cultures in some fashion or other serve the dominant culture. When Israel becomes the master of the community calendar, and becomes the dominant community, she may not use this advantage to intimidate and tyrannize her minority communities. Nachmanides sees this warning to Yaacov within the blessing of Esav.
This is all the more remarkable when we consider that Nachmanides was expelled from Spain because of anti-Jewish sentiment and spent his last years in Israel. It was not vengeance he looked for, but a higher moral purpose for Yaacov when he would finally be the majority culture and thus necessarily be served by his brothers.