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Thought for the Day: Chosen From Among the Nations, Because We Live Among the Nations -- Part I

In birkas ha'torah, we thank HaShem for choosing us from among all the nations to give us His Torah.  What difference does is make who else was in the running?  We were chosen!  Thus begins R' Efraim Twerski in his shiur regarding the bracha of "asher bachar banu".  Whether or not you feel the question is compelling; the answer is astounding!

To answer we need to go back to that first break from the nations of the world that the world even noticed: when Yitzchak Avinu gave the brachos to Yaakov Avinu instead of to Esav HaRasha.  (Oops...is my bias showing?  Good!  I am fine with being charged with preferring good to evil even when it's not -- well... especially when it's not, actually -- politically correct.)  We need a few more questions to stir up enthusiasm before proceeding to the answer.

Why, for instance, did Yitzchak want to give the brachos to Eisav anyway?  Hint: it was not because he did not recognize Eisav's nature; Yitzchak knew his nature very well.  For example, the S'porno explaines, that Yitzchak required Eisav to perform an act of kibud av in order to give the bracha leverage; no such request was made of Yaakov at the end of the parasha when it came time to give Yaakov a bracha.

Second, Yaakov expresses his concern to his mother that things that the efforts to acquire this bracha could turn into a curse. Yaakov's statement begins (B'reishis 27:12): Maybe my father will touch me.  In Lashon HaKodesh there are two words for maybe: "pen", often translated as "lest"; "u'lai", maybe/I hope.  Yaakov used the word "u'lai", not "pen".  Also, Yaakov's concern that the blessing turn to a curse are not joined to the beginning of the verse with a conjunction, but is separated by an esnachta (essentially a semicolon).  So Yaakov's statement was really: I hope that Abba will touch me and reveal the deception, because if he doesn't, I am worried that bracha will be a curse!  His mother answered (as explained by Onkelos): Don't worry; I know prophetically that you will be ok.  What was Yaakov worried about?

As long as we're on the topic, please note that Yitzchak did, in fact, feel Yaakov's arms; just as Yaakov hoped.  Yitchak's reaction?  Not quite what Yaakov had hoped, but, "ha'kol kol yaakov, v'ha'yadayim y'dei eisav"/the voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Eisav.  Yitzchak's vision was weak, not his hearing.  Yaakov was only able to pull this off because he and Eisav sounded exactly the same.  Yitzchak was only tipped off by the fact that the voice he was hearing was from a well mannered person, not the gruff nature he expected of Eisav.  So... if Yitzchak had such strong evidence that something was amiss, why didn't he at least put a halt to this meeting until he could get clarification?

What was the point of this bracha?  For whom (ie, with what characteristics) was it intended?  Why was Yaakov so afraid of that bracha that only his mother's prophetic promise could assuage his concerns?

Great questions, don't you think?  I'll get back to you, bli neder and b'ezras HaShem.

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