11/06/2007

Perhaps my Father will Feel Me

In this week's parsha, Rivka hatches her plan to trick her husband into giving the brachot to Yaakov. The younger son seems willing to go along with it, but expresses his reservations. Amongst them, he says 'ulai yemusheini avi' - 'perhaps my father fill will feel me - as he indeed did. In response, Rivka instructs him to wear gotaskins, so that he would feel like Esav.

Biblical Hebrew has different words for 'perhaps'. In general, 'ulai' is used when the speaker wants the potential event to occur, whereas 'pen' is used if it is t be avided. 'Pen' can alternatively be translated as 'lest'. In context of our parsha, 'pen' would have been the expected choice of words. After all, we assume that Yaakov does not want to get caught. Nevertheless, the Torah uses 'ulai', which would normally indicate that Yaako actually wanted his father to catch him. Perhaps, at some level, he did. There are two reasons that I can think of:

  1. Guilt. Yaakov felt terrible about duping his old, blind father and subconsciously wished that he would be revealed. The scheme was not his initiative, but his mother's. He objects to it but ends up going along. Perhaps he still hoped the plan would fail.
  2. Affection. Yaakov was beloved by his mother, but his father preferred Esav. Yaakov would now be in a situation where he would be before his father disguised as the beloved Esav. In playing out the scenario, perhaps the thought crossed Yaakov's mind that he would be the recipient of some physical affection from his father, even though it was intended for Esav. This would present a problem in that baby-faced Yaakov could not pass for the hirsute Esav, but it had the unintended benefit of some real father-son bonding.
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