Kenneth Cohen

Two Views of Yitzchak and Eisav

There are two very contrasting opinions as to the behavior of Yitzchak towards Eisav.

One opinion believes that Yitzchak was completely fooled by Eisav’s pretending to be righteous. He allegedly asked his father detailed questions about Tithing salt. Yitzchak was actually bribed by his son’s flattery.

And this was the reason why he lost his vision in his old age. The Torah warns that a bribe can blind the eyes of the wise.

Rav Shlomo Mann gives an opposite explanation. He points out that Yitzchak became suspicious that he was being fooled by Yakov, when Yakov said that he brought him food quickly, because he was helped by Hashem. Eisav didn’t speak that way, where he would mention Hashem in his conversation. Immediately, Yitzchak asks to feel Yakov’s arms, because of this suspicion.

Rav Mann felt that Yitzchak knew exactly who Eisav was. But he hoped that if he encouraged him, even though he was not sincere, maybe something would sink in. The proof that his strategy worked was that Eisav respected his father to the extent that he said he would wait until his father died, before killing his brother. It’s always good to give the benefit of the doubt. This is an interesting demonstration showing how the same incident can be seen very differently.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at