The Haftorah of Eikav Eisav and the Moth

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In this week’s Haftorah, we read Yeshaya’s Nevvuah of the triumph of Klal Yisroel returning to Eretz Yisroel. But till that comes to fruition, there is a process wherein many doubt the possibility if it taking place. The Navi describes how many will disagree with him. He says that those who doubt him will be like an article of clothing that is threadbare from overuse, and as if it was eaten by a moth. Why these two metaphors?

The Malbim[1] explains that they are diametrically opposed. On the one hand an article of clothing eaten by a moth, is not used, and by its abandonment the moths can eat away to their heart’s content. Whereas clothing that is threadbare from being worn, shows that there was good use from it. Why these two metaphors?

There are two ways to disagree with the Torah. One is to ascribe it significance, and disagree. The other is to just ignore it, and to declare it completely irrelevant. Those who disagree with the Torah their punishment is like clothing that is tattered. In the end they have nothing left, but they were used and then are thrown out. But those who ignored the Torah, as if consumed by a moth. They accomplished nothing, and then are consumed.

In one of the lesser known Midrashim[2] it says: Why is there the letter Shin in the name of Eisav? Since he will be as a moth, completely consumed. The Midrash is conflating the act of the moth with the essence of what the moth is. Only something that has no purpose, will consume perfectly useful clothes, and that is the eating and the essence of the moth.

The Megaleh Amukos[3] continues this idea. Eisav and Yakov are not just twins. They have character traits that are the mirror image of each other. He explains that even their names are connected. The letters of their two names are transferred from one to the other. Eisav is born as a completed person. He does see a need to improve, to change, to grow. As the Gemarra says, “A newly born ox is as complete as any ox.” Animals grow larger but do not have the capacity to change into a different being. Their nature is what it is, as they are bron with, they cannot develop. They live always in the present, with no future. That is what Chazal teach us that Eisav was born with his body fully formed. The people around marveled at this. But they did not realize the deficiency of such a person who can never grow. Actually his name was meant to express this even more fully. It was not to be Eisav, but  – עשויAsui. In the vernacular we would translate that ‘Done’. There is nothing left to do you are done.

Yakov would have then been Akev- heel. Without the Yud, the younger twin is a lowly heel. He is doomed to be the part of the body where the snake can attack and overcome. As it syas in Bereishis, “He (the snake) will poison your heel.” Again a world where the Nachash, the Yetzer Hara has control. The Akev is static. Even worse it is unfeeling.

But the Yad- hand- of Yakov grabs the heel of Eisav. It takes the Yud of the original Eisav and transfers it to Yakov. Eisav is less static, and has some ability to change. These are the converts from Eisav over the generations. And we, the descendants of Yakov, receive a price less gift. The gift of a future. The Yud at the beginning of a verb denotes future. We can reach to the future and grasp it. Even our heel has a future. We will always grasp and try to reach to change even our heel.

But as described in this week’s Haftorah, there will be a final reckoning. Then even the Vav of Eisav will be lost. Eisav with a Vav is still a verb, it has some capacity for action and growth. But take away the Vav, and all that is left is a moth. All it can do is consume things that serve no purpose and are unused. That Vav will then be transferred to the name of Yakov, and Yakov will be complete.

[1] מלבי”ם על ישעיה פרק נ פסוק ט – חלק באור הענין – הן ה’ יעזר לי מי הוא ירשיעני – ומי יזכה בוכוח וטענות נגד נבואתי, הן כלם כבגד יבלו – בליית הבגד תהיה ע”י רוב התשמיש בו, ושיאכל הבגד מן העש זה יהיה ע”י שאין משתמשים בו, לכן נגד בעל הריב שיבא נגדו בריב וטו”מ, אומר כי יבלה כבגד – הנבלה אם מרבים להשתמש בו, כן אם ישתמשו בטענותיהם וראיותיהם וירבו להפך אותם יבלו כבגד, ונגד בעל המשפט שירצה לבא נגדו בדבר מבואר אומר כי לא יוצרך להתוכח נגדו כלל, כי דבריו דברי אלהים חיים, וכשיניח את דברי בעל המשפט ולא יגע בהם יאכל ע”י העש – מפני ששום אדם לא יגע במשפטו הכוזב והבדוי:

[2]  בתי מדרשות חלק ב – מדרש חסרות ויתרות פרשת תולדות – דבר אחר למה עשו חסר יו”ד שלא זכה לעשרת הדברות: ולמה נכתב בשי”ן שהוא כולו כעש לעתיד לבוא שנאמר (ישעיה נ ט) כבגד יבלו עש יאכלם:

[3]מגלה עמוקות על התורה – פרשת בחקותי  –  ויעקב היה ראוי לקרות בשם עקב רק ואחרי כן יצא אחיו השני וידו אוחזת בעקב עשו קרי בי’ ויו”ד שהיא בעקב ובסוף של עשו סוד עוה”ב שעשו הוא עקב לסולייתא עשה יעקב ראש ועטרה לראשו לכן ויקרא שמו יעקב. וז”ס הבכורה שלקח יעקב עוה”ב נברא בי’ ואצל עשו אי’ ויאכל וישת ויקם וילך ויבז ה”פ ו”י לכן אמר שני גיים בי’ וקרי בו’ כי הי’ לקח יעקב מעקבו של עשו:

איתא בס’ הפליאה שלע”ל יבא מלאך שנקרא גדיאל קרא בחיל וכן אמר גודו אילנא וקצצו ענפוהי שזה נאמר על ו’ של עשו שיש לו עוד אות אחת משמו י”ת ולע”ל יקצצו ממנו ברם עיקר שרשוהי בארעא שבקו אז נשאר מן עשו (ישעי’) עש יאכלם ואז יהיה כמסוס

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