The Father and fathers Print
By Leon Kass   
Thursday, 14 February 2013

If we are lucky to live long enough, many of us discover that our parents get smarter as we get older, especially if we are blessed with children of our own to rear. They were right, our parents, when they said to us, “Just you wait until you have children! Then you’ll see.” Why we cannot learn by being told and while we live under their rule is a long question; but, for most of us, we must separate ourselves from our parents in order to learn the hard way, before we can, in returning, step up to take their place. This, I believe, happens also to Isaac, albeit late in his life.
 
It happens at the moment when Isaac discovers that he has been fooled by Jacob into giving him the blessing he had intended for Esau. This revelation suddenly brings Isaac to his senses. Remarkably, he is not angry but rather awe-struck: “And Isaac trembled with an exceedingly great trembling” (27:33), as if he sensed that the blessing had been given through him to the proper son, by powers beyond his control. As he had said, prophetically but unwittingly, when he sent Esau out at the start of this episode, he would eat but his soul would bless (27:4)-and so it happened. Despite himself, something that was living in him and through him gave the blessing to the son for whom it was suited; note that in doing so he metaphorically sacrificed his favorite son! No wonder he trembled: O my God! Is this what my father suffered and understood and felt on Mount Moriah?
 
In the immediate sequel, Isaac on his own initiative calls, blesses, and, for the first time, commands Jacob-not to take a Canaanite wife but to find one at the ancestral home of his mother, Rebekah. Continuing (and these are the last words and the last deed of Isaac in the Bible), Isaac bestows on Jacob-fully and freely-the Abrahamic blessing, the proper blessing of the sons of the covenant:
 
“And God Almighty will bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be an assembly of peoples; And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be an assembly of peoples; And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest possess the land of thy sojournings, which God gave unto Abraham.” (28:3-4)

 
 

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