. . . Isaac the son of Abraham; Abraham fathered Isaac (25:19)
The cynics of that generation were saying that Sarah had become pregnant from Avimelech, since she had failed to conceive in all the years she was with Abraham. What did G‑d do? He formed the countenance of Isaac to resemble that of Abraham, so that all might attest that Abraham had fathered Isaac. This is the meaning of the repetitious wording of the verse: “Isaac (is certainly) the son of Abraham, (since there is proof that) Abraham fathered Isaac.”
There are children who are embarrassed of their parents, and there are parents who are embarrassed by their children. With Abraham and Isaac it wasn’t like that: Isaac prided himself in that he was “Isaac the son of Abraham,” and Abraham prided himself in that “Abraham fathered Isaac.”
(Midrash Tanchuma; Midrash HaGadol)
Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebecca . . . as a wife (25:20)
For three years, from the Binding of Isaac at age 37 to his marriage at age 40, Isaac was in the Garden of Eden.
Marriage is a time of increased enmeshment in the material. It is a time when one begins to engage in the most physical of human drives; it is also a time when one is forced to begin, in earnest, the business of earning a livelihood, often at the expense of loftier and more idealistic pursuits. Thus the Zohar refers to marriage as a person’s second birth: first the soul enters into the body and assumes a physical existence; then, at a later point in life, it further “descends” into the physical state by marrying.
Therein lies the lesson to be derived from the fact that prior to his marriage Isaac spent three years in the Garden of Eden, abandoning the physical state for a wholly spiritual existence. In order to ensure the success of the most physical phase of a person’s life, it must be prefaced by a period of spiritual preparation. Although the primary objective of our mission in life is the development and sanctification of the physical world, one must enter that world well equipped with the spiritual vision of the divine purpose and with the spiritual fortitude to carry it out.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
The children struggled within her (25:22)
Whenever she would pass a house of prayer or house of study, Jacob would struggle to come out . . . and when she passed a house of idol worship, Esau would struggle to come out. Also, they were struggling between themselves, fighting over the inheritance of the two worlds (i.e., the material world and the “world to come”).
(Yalkut Shimoni; Rashi)
One nation will struggle against the other (25:23)
They will never be equal: when one rises the other will fall, and vice versa.
Jacob was an innocent man, dwelling in tents (25:27)
The academy of Shem and the academy of Eber.
Isaac loved Esau because [his] game was in his mouth (25:28)
Esau would deceive him with his mouth. He would inquire of him: “Father, how does one tithe salt? Father, how does one tithe straw?” And Isaac would muse: “This son of mine, how diligent he is in the fulfillment of the commandments!”
(Midrash Tanchuma; Rashi)
That was the day on which Abraham died, and Jacob made a broth of lentils to comfort his father Isaac.
Why lentils? Just as the lentil has no mouth, so is the mourner speechless. . . . Just as the lentil is round, so mourning comes around to all the inhabitants of this world.
Esau came from the field, and he was exhausted (25:29)
Esau committed five sins on that day: he dishonored a betrothed maiden, he committed a murder, he denied G‑d, he denied the resurrection of the dead, and he spurned the birthright.
On that day, Esau murdered Nimrod (the king of Babylonia).
G‑d appeared to him, and said: “Do not go down into Egypt; dwell in the Land” (26:2)
G‑d said to him: “You are a burnt offering without blemish; as a burnt offering becomes unfit if it passes beyond the Temple enclosure, so will you become unfit if you go out of the Holy Land.”
Isaac dug again the wells of water . . . and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them (26:18)
Behold the humility of Isaac. A person acquires a house and gives it a name; then his son comes, adds a new part to it, and calls it by a different name. Not so Isaac: all the wells which Abraham dug and named, although they were entirely stopped up by the Philistines, when Isaac redug them a second time he did not give them new names, but reinstated the names given them by his father.
And what reward did he receive for this? The other Patriarchs had their names changed: Abraham was first called Abram and later Abraham; Jacob was initially called Jacob and subsequently given the name Israel. Isaac, however, was given the name “Isaac” from G‑d even before his birth, and his name was not changed for all generations.
He called the name of it Sitnah (“animosity”) (26:21)
This comes to teach us that there is not a righteous man who does not have detractors.
He dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it (26:22)
The first two wells allude to the first two Temples, which the enemies of Israel destroyed. The third well represents the Third Temple which shall speedily be built, which will be established without animosity and strife; G‑d will then broaden our boundaries, and all nations will serve Him in unison.
It came to pass that Isaac aged, and his eyes dimmed (27:1)
From the smoke of the offerings that Esau’s wives burned for their idols. Another explanation is that when Isaac was bound on the altar and his father wished to slaughter him, at that moment the heavens opened and the angels wept, and their tears fell into his eyes, which caused his eyes to dim. Another explanation: this came to pass in order to enable Jacob to receive the blessings.
Behold now, I am old; I know not the day of my death (27:2)
Said Rabbi Joshua ben Korchah: When a man comes to the age of his parents at the time of their death, for five years before and five years after he must fear death. For thus did Isaac reason: If I am to attain my father’s years, I am yet far short of them. But if I am to attain my mother’s years, “Behold now, I am old; I know not the day of my death.” (Isaac was 123 years old at the time; Sarah lived 127 years; Abraham, 175.)
I know not the day of my death (27:2)
Seven things are concealed from man: the day of death, the day of the Redemption and the absolute truth in a judgment; also, no man knows how he will earn a livelihood, what is in his neighbor’s heart, what a woman is bearing, and when the wicked State [Rome] will fall.
Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man (27:11)
Two men, one possessing a thick head of hair and the other bald-headed, stood near a threshing floor. When the chaff flew into the locks of the former, it became entangled in his hair, but when it flew on to the head of the bald man, he passed his hand over his head and removed it.
By the same token, the wicked Esau is polluted by sin throughout the year and has no way to achieve atonement; whereas Jacob is defiled by sin throughout the year, but has the Day of Atonement through which to procure forgiveness.
Rebecca took the coveted clothes of Esau . . . and put them on Jacob (27:15)
These are the clothes which Esau coveted from Nimrod, killing him in order to take them from him.
He said: “Because the L‑rd your G‑d sent me good speed” (27:20)
As soon as Jacob said these words, Isaac said to himself: “I know that Esau does not mention the name of the Holy One, blessed be He; since this one does mention Him, he is not Esau but Jacob.” Since Jacob spoke thus, Isaac said to him: “Come near, please, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.”
The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau (27:22)
“The voice is the voice of Jacob”—no prayer is effective unless the seed of Jacob has a part in it. “The hands are the hands of Esau”—no war is successful unless the seed of Esau has a share in it.
Esau went to Ishmael, and he took Machalat, the daughter of Ishmael the son of Abraham, the sister of Nevayot, in addition to his other wives as a wife (28:9)
What is the point of identifying Machalat as “the sister of Nevayot”? Rashi explains that this is to provide us with a clue as to Jacob’s age at the time of his receiving the blessings from his father. Calling her “Nevayot’s sister” indicates that her marriage to Esau took place after Ishmael’s death, so that her brother, rather than her father, was the one who married her off. Yet the beginning of the verse describes how Esau went to Ishmael to arrange the marriage. This means that the event occurred right at the time of Ishmael’s death.
We know that Ishmael was 14 years older than Isaac (cf. Genesis 16:16 and 21:5); that Isaac was 60 years older than Jacob and Esau (25:26); and that Ishmael died at age 137 (25:17). Hence, Jacob and Esau were 63 years old when Jacob stole the blessings from his brother and was sent by Isaac to Charan to take a wife from Laban’s daughters.
But following other clues provided by the Torah, we deduce that Jacob arrived in Charan quite a number of years later. Upon his arrival in Egypt, Jacob tells Pharaoh that he is 130 years old (Genesis 47:9); Joseph at the time was 39 (41:46 and 45:6), which means that Jacob was 91 at the time of Joseph’s birth; and Joseph was born 14 years after Jacob’s arrival in Charan, after he had worked for two seven-year periods for Leah and Rachel, but before his third, six-year term of working in return for a portion of Laban’s sheep (30:25 and 31:41).
In other words, Jacob left his parents’ home in Be’er Sheva at age 63, but arrived in Charan 14 years later, at age 77. (Eliezer, making the same journey a generation earlier to find a wife for Isaac, made the trip in a single day.) Our sages explain that for fourteen years Jacob hid himself in the home of his ancestor and teacher, Eber (the great-grandson of Shem), where he immersed himself in the study of Torah.