When we get to the blessing that Yaakov takes from Esav, we are left with a slew of difficult questions. Among the most interesting is that posed by Ramban as to why Rivkah did not share her earlier prophecy – that foresaw Ya’akov dominating Esav – with her husband. Many answers are given, but the question may not be as strong as it first appears. Let’s say Rivkah had told Yitzchak. Would it have taught him something new?
It is likely that Yitzchak also planned for Ya’akov to dominate. As per Sforno, Yitzchak’s plan was for there to be an association between the two brothers. And that association, the older would still serve the younger. But service can come in many ways. The plan was that Yaakov would provide the heart and soul while Esav would provide the muscle and practical know-how. Both would excel in their own ways and thereby use their strengths to help themselves and each other. In order for this to happen, Esav needed physical bounty and strength and that is exactly what Yitzchak’s blessing was meant to give him. With all of that, he would still only be like a powerful general serving his brother the king.
The real question, however, is why Rivkah felt so convinced that Yitzchak was wrong and equally convinced that she could not convince him otherwise. In her mind, Esav was bad and could not be counted upon to work with Ya’akov. Moreover, she saw that Yaakov would one day develop into Yisrael, someone who could take care of himself in all realms, and not need the help of his brother. It is not unlikely that Yitzchak had the mirror impression; that Yaakov would always stay as he basically was, a man of tents – a thinker and dreamer who would find it hard to make headway in the practical world, whereas Esav would show his better self as soon as his family gave him more understanding and more responsibility. It is also quite likely that husband and wife knew very well how the other felt. In short, there was not much to talk about.
On the one hand, we see that Rivkah was right about Ya’akov’s potential. On the other hand, since she had the day, we will never be sure who was right about Esav. Maybe she was right and maybe it was Yitzchak who was right. But from where Rivkah and Yitzchak were standing, there was no way to be sure about either outcome. From that juncture in time, she could have been wrong about both boys. Her actions were all based on intuition and hope. Yet it is precisely intuition and hope that are at the heart of child raising. Far from scientific, they are still usually the best tools at our disposal. To be true to herself as a mother, Rivkah had to do everything in her power to give her hopes for Ya’akov the best possible chance. (The same is true for Yitzchak who likely chose to completely ignore Rivkah’s opinion and persist with his decision to bless their more problematic child.)
Of course, there are limits to how far we can act based upon our intuition – and it is likely that Rivkah went too far. Moreover, it is wise to make room for the intuitions of others and to sometimes put our own hopes aside… but not always. There are also times when it is not unreasonable to follow our gut to the very limits.
With all the prophetic powers at their disposal, our Biblical heroes lived with almost as many uncertainties as we do. For uncertainty is a part of the way God designed the human condition. A great part of the wisdom they passed down to us is how to work through it.Rabbi Francis Nataf