The seeming “hijacking” of Eisav’s berachos by Yaakov is a challenging parsha to understand clearly and many meforshim grapple with interpretations offering different avenues by which one can cross over its complexities. We will present the interpretation of the Bais Haleivi in one segment of the parsha which solves a simple but difficult question in pshat. Yaakov stands before Yitzchak dressed in Eisav’s clothing and with goat skins covering his arms asking his father to partake from the food he has prepared. Yitzchak is not so fast to agree to bentch the person standing in front of him because there arose some skepticism about his true identity. הקול קול יעקב והידים ידי עשו The voice sounds like Yaakov’s but the hands are hairy like Eisav. Was it really Eisav or an impersonator? The passuk continues ויברך אותו Yitzchak benched him. But wait, the doubt has yet not been resolved. How could Yitzchak bentch him while still remaining with the uncertainty as to who is the real receiver of this once in a lifetime beracha?
To this question, the Bais Halavei suggests that Aisav suspected Yaakov that he will attempt to steal the berachos from him in the same manner that he “stole” the bechorah. Eisav, therefore, devised a strategy with Yitzchak in order to foil the hijacking of the berachos. He assumed that Yaakov would dress up to look like him and also impersonate his voice thereby making Yitzchak believe that is was Eisav standing in front of him. Therefore the plan was that Eisav would do just the opposite and take on the identity of Yaakov by impersonating his voice. When Yitzchak will hear the talk of Yaakov then he is to know that the identity of the person in front of him receiving the berachos is no other that Eisav.
And so it happened with the Hashgacha of Hashem that Yaakov dressed up like Eisav but he did not change his speech to mirror that of Eisav’s. So when Yitzchak felt his arms and they were hairy, and he heard the voice of Yaakov, he said הקול קול יעקב והידים ידי עשו everything fits the plan and the criterion was met. It must be Eisav standing in front of me to receive the berachos, ויברכהו.
But wait a minute. The Bais Haleivi did not explain what was going through Yaakov’s head that made him decide to speak like himself instead of impersonating the voice of Eisav? On one hand, he was worried that his arms were smooth and Eisav’s were hairy, therefore his mother placed goatskins on his arms in order not to raise any suspicion to Yitzchak concerning his true identity. But using his own speech instead of Eisav’s would be a dead giveaway and suicide. Why wasn’t Yaakov concerned about his identity being disclosed by preserving his dibbur intact?
The answer we suggest is that dressing like a goy is one thing, especially if it is for the purpose of a mitzvah of listening to his mother and also to receive the berachos of Kllal Yisrael. However, speaking like a goy is unacceptable even at the great cost of losing everything. Speech is the defining character of Man. It one’s speech is corrupt or unholy then the stature of the human Tzelem Elokim using it has become distorted and tainted. Yaakov was not willing even under the circumstances of losing everything to forfeit his holy tongue.
What came out of Yaakov’s deep commitment to not speaking “street talk” was the very reason why he got the berachos from Yitzchak. Had he mimicked also the speech of Eisav he would have lost the berachos, for Yitzchak would have realized according to the pre-planned strategy that it was really Yaakov. Precisely because of Yaakov’s resolve not to move an iota from his divine speech, Yitzchak was persuaded into thinking that the person in front of him was not an impersonator but none other than Eisav, and consequently Yaakov received the berachos in his stead.
We see from this how important it is not to copy the speech of the goyim. But wait! What exactly is the nature of this speech of Eisav that Chazal are talking about which Yaakov did not copy? We are not talking about whether the nature of Eisav’s voice was high pitched, soprano, low, baritone etc. Rashi says the special speech of Yaakov unknown to Eisav was the word please. Eisav did not say please when he requested something. Yaakov when he asked his father to partake from his meal he used the word please which was a dead giveaway that Yaakov was the one requesting from him and not Eisav. Yet Yaakov risked all the berachos in order not to omit the word please before requesting his father to eat from the food that was prepared. Is that incredible or what? It is even more unbelievable when one thinks that Eisav’s mitzvah of Kibud Av was off the charts and yet he found it difficult to say the word please.
This generation especially finds difficulty with this word. Maybe because crime is so abundant, making the offenders constantly on the alert and edgy, that by saying the word please it might suddenly ignite pandemonium because someone thought you said Police. The lack of is not about etiquette and manners per se, but rather the distorted and undeserving feeling of entitlement and expectation. In Yiddish when one asks someone to pass an item he uses the expression zeit mocheil – forgive me. What is forgiving got to do with a request to pass an item? The true answer is sensitivity. When someone else is occupied and busy with his thing, and then you request from him to halt his focus and self-interest and now pay attention to you, one must ask himself what right and permission do you have to disturb him and to invest his effort to fulfill your request. Get up from your seat and get the ketchup yourself. Unless you feel entitlement like Eisav, you should feel the necessity to preface your request with zeit mochel for disturbing and bothering another person. That is how a Yid thinks and acts which is a far cry from today’s sensitivities. It is rare to find someone saying even please and thank you, never mind zeit mochel.
In the summer I needed to have a tooth implant and I was recommended a certain doctor who for one hour lectured me with a fiery mussar session on how to converse with people. No, he didn’t give me mussar directly, but he was constantly talking to his assistant during the procedure. It was in his dialogue with the assistant that I heard this inspiring shmuz. There wasn’t even one time when he asked her for a specific instrument or directed her to use one, that he didn’t say please and thank you before and after each request. I just sat there (I had no other choice) amazed and amazed again at how many times one can squeeze into a minute to say please and thank you. I told him after servicing me how lucky I was to be his patient. It was worth having the tooth replacement just to listen to a boss, who by nature feels entitled to command and control his employee, yet nevertheless acts with outstanding Derech Eretz, middos, respect, and gratitude.
I grew up out of town in a suburb of Boston. Some say that out of town people are nicer or more chilled. I personally think that the previous generation, in general, was nicer and had much more Derech Eretz and respect than today’s generation. Since I began driving at 16, I noticed that any time that I would allow someone in an approaching car to cut across my lane he or she would wave their hand as a gesture of thank you for your kindness. I naturally responded that way simply because of Hakaras Hatov. Well, such a response is almost extinct. However, I must admit that in Jewish neighborhoods it is more prevalent. After all the first word a Yid says when he wakes up in the morning is thank you מודה אני לפניך. For everybody else, their omission is either entitlement or they are ingrates in general. Both personalities are dysfunctional and sick. Even Hashem, who created and sustains everything every moment, when He requested from Avraham to sacrifice his son, He preceded it with the word please קח נא את בנך. Zeit Mocheil! (see Derashos Haran 6, Abarbanel that the test of the Akaidah was not a command but rather a request of mechilah on Hashem’s promise to Avraham concerning Yitzchak).
Returning to the parsha, we want to add just another thought about the crucial word “please”. When Yitzchak realized what had just transpired and that Yaakov was the one who received the berachos – rightfully so – he told Eisav בא אחיך במרמה which the Targum Onkelos translates as, your brother came with חכמה. The intention of Yitzchak in saying this statement is based on the passuk which says ראשית חכמה יראת ה’ the beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem יראת שמים. According to the Bais Halevi’s interpretation, we can suggest that Yitzchak, who was in on Eisav’s plan, realized that it was only the יראת שמים of Yaakov that held him back from changing from his dibbur even an iota by leaving out the word please, lest it would affect the dimension of his Tzelem Elokim. This yiras shamayim was the reason for his success in meriting the berachos from Hashem.
The passuk says וירח את ריח בגדיו that Yitzchak smelled the fragrance of Gan Eden emanating from the clothes when Yaakov entered to receive the berachos. The scent of Gan Eden comes from individuals who have ראשית חכמה יראת ה’. That is why the word ריח is the acronym ראשית חכמה יראת. The word בגדיו can be interpreted to mean his mazal tov his good fortune, as Rashi says in the naming of גד (Bereishis 30,11). Again this points to the fact that Yaakov’s mazal tov in meriting to get the berachos was his Yiras Shamayim by not compromising any of his dibbur that would place him in the category of talking the language of Eisav.
The word “Police” or just seeing them running arouses fear in one’s heart. One of the great fears we have while driving in a car is the sudden appearance of that red flashing light in the vehicle behind us which makes our hearts beat faster and somehow miraculously reduces our speed. We should only merit to possess the fear of Hashem to preface our requests with the wisdom of using the word Please Zeit Mochel to be on par with the fear we have from the Police in the above scenario.