Fighting with the “Hands of Esav”


פרשת תולדות opens with a description of Rivka’s troubled pregnancy. At the conflicted reactions of her prenatal children (see Rashi/Midrash on passing houses of study and idol worship), our second matriarch seeks out divine guidance:

ויֹּאמֶר ה’ לָהּ, שְׁנֵי גֹיִים בְּבִטְנֵךְ, וּשְׁנֵי לְאֻמִּים, מִמֵּעַיִךְ יִפָּרֵדוּ; וּלְאֹם מִלְאֹם יֶאֱמָץ, וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר

And G-d said to her: there are two nations in your womb, and two people will be separated from you- one people shall be stronger than the other, and the elder shall serve the younger. (בראשית כה:כג)

This prophecy begins to come true with the subsequent birth of Eisav and Yaakov, who develop distinct personalities and clearly have different destinies:

וַיִּגְדְּלוּ הַנְּעָרִים, וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד, אִישׁ שָׂדֶה; וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם, יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים

And the boys grew up, and Esav was a cunning hunter, man of the field, and Yaakov was a simple man, who dwelled in tents. (שם כז)

Esav very quickly becomes the hunter and gatherer of the family, going out into the field and preparing food for his parents, though many מפרשים critically interpret “איש ידע ציד” as a high level of cunning and cruelty. Contrast this to Yaakov, who had a simple, if naïve, personality, and stayed close to home learning Torah (Rashi) or working as a shepherd for his father’s flocks (Rashbam). Looking back at Rivka’s prophecy, it seems clear which of the twins is the “לאם יאמץ”- Esav, a cunning man of action, would win any fight in a heartbeat.

However, jumping forward to the end of the סדרה, Yitzchak prepares to bless Esav and Rivka intervenes, knowing what her husband doesn’t know, that “רב יעבד צעיר,” the younger of the two must overcome the elder. She helps Yaakov prepare a disguise and he reluctantly enters Yitzchak’s tent to receive his ברכה. Yitzchak, noticing something is amiss, famously says:

הַקֹּל קוֹל יַעֲקֹב, וְהַיָּדַיִם, יְדֵי עֵשָׂו.

The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Esav. (כז:כב)

On a basic level, this could be a reference to Yaakov’s use of Hashem’s name in conversation (something which Esav would never do), and the fur he put on his arms to make them seem hairy like Esav’s (Rashi). However, in the context of Rivka’s prophecy, this takes on a deeper meaning. Yitzchak did not know about the נבואה, but it was clear to him, even in his advanced age and lack of sight, that his sons were radically different. He saw his son Esav as a man of action, as clear from the physical ברכה that he meant to give  him. Yaakov, on the other hand, was a more passive and peaceful person. Yitzchak’s statement of “the voice is Yaakov’s voice, but the hands are Esav’s hands,” could, on deeper level, reflect this. When Yitzchak called for his son Esav, in walked a man who spoke politely like Yaakov, but did something that Yaakov would never do- stepping up and doing what needed to be done in order to ensure the prophecy was fulfilled. This was something Esav would have done, hence “והידים ידי עשו”- the hands, symbolizing action, were quite the opposite of anything Yaakov would ever do. But, through this drastic action, Yaakov was able to receive the blessing to ensure that, in the end of days, “רב יעבד צעיר,” the younger of the two brothers would triumph over the elder.

This message is especially symbolic in the context of Tuesday’s horrific terrorist attack, when four great תלמידי חכם were slain in the process of praying to G-d, people whose lives were dedicated to living up to Yaakov’s example as an “איש תם יושב אהלים.” I had the opportunity to visit the site of the attack on Tuesday evening, and even though ZAKA had already completed most of their cleanup by the time I had arrived, it was horrifying to see such the terrible sight of bullet holes, shattered glass and blood remnants in such a peaceful place of prayer. Speaking to different ZAKA and United Hatzalah volunteers on scene, it became clear just how cruel the two attackers were. Between frightening the מתפללים with bullet shots, savagely mutilating the victims with a meat cleaver, and shooting some of the casualties point-blank execution style, the barbaric monsters who perpetrated this attack demonstrated that they are clearly spiritual descendants of the “איש ידע ציד,” trapping their victims with a cruelty that even the evil Esav would never direct towards a person.

For the past few weeks, innocent soldiers, children and civilians alike have been slain by the hand of our enemy, who has shown his strength very much like in Rivka’s prophecy. We have further made ourselves weaker by not responding properly to these tragedies. Like Yaakov, our responses have mostly been timid, just defending ourselves from similar attacks instead of ensuring they don’t happen again. Or, as my good friend Yonah Rossman put it simply on The Times of Israel a few days ago:

The government has created a policy of making terror tolerable. They have built a country that assumes terror has in essence become something mundane and acceptable. They tell us terror is okay; we can live with it. We can accommodate their rage…

They throw rocks. That’s okay. We will secure our cars and busses with rock proof windows.

They kidnap? That’s okay. We will put security cameras.

They fire rockets. That’s okay. We will build an Iron dome and bomb shelters.

They run over pedestrians. That’s okay. We will turn our bus stops into bunkers.

They shoot us while we pray. That’s okay. We will put a security guard in every Shul.

The truth is though, they are terrorists and all is not okay.

They are terrorists and they must be crushed.

We must remind the Islamic Palestinian terrorists that even though they may think they are the “stronger ones,” we have a track record of being successful when we eventually stand up to them. They may think that they can shoot, stab, brutalize, and kill us in the streets of our holy city, but their time is limited. They may be descended from our forefather Yitzchak’s older sibling Yishmael, acting on the cruel and horrendous habits of Yaakov’s older sibling Esav, but we have a secret weapon- “רב יעבד צעיר.” As soon as we work up the courage to hit them back, and ensure we do it in a moral enough way that the worst thing that nations of the world can say is “הקול קול יעקב והידים ידי עשו,” then we will show the world once and for all the power of the nation of Israel, with G-d’s help. We will not let them continue to strike us down. We will fight back and avenge the blood of the holy Jews who lost their lives על קידוש השם. We are עם ישראל and we will beat these בני שפחה once and for all.

The time has come for action. I call on the Israeli government to up the ante, remind the terrorists who currently controls Jerusalem and the State of Israel (including Judea and Samaria), and, as Yonah so nicely put it, crush these terrorists once and for all. With Hashem’s help, we will merit to see a time of peace and tranquility in ארצנו הקדושה very soon.

About the Author
Born and raised in Teaneck NJ, Tzvi Silver moved to Israel in 2012 after catching aliyah fever while learning abroad. Tzvi is now pursuing a degree in Engineering from the Jerusalem College of Technology, and works on the side as a contributor for local newspapers in the New York Area. Tzvi's interests include learning Torah, rabble-rousing, and finding creative ways of mixing the two.
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