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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Toldos: Walking the Tightrope in our Everyday Lives

While realizing that he needed to bend the truth, Yaakov did not want an utterance of untruthfulness to undermine his character.

ויאמר יעקב אל אביו אנכי עשו בכרך

And Yaakov said to his father, it is I, Eisav, your firstborn

Rashi explains that although Yaakov said, it is I, Eisav your firstborn, his intent was, "it is I – I am the one who is bringing you this food, and Eisav is your firstborn". Two unrelated statements.

The question is, how does this help? The fact is that Yaakov said a misleading statement. What difference does it make that he had a convoluted explanation in mind?

Truthfully, that the entire episode is mind boggling. Yaakov, who bears the title "Man of Truth", תתן אמת ליעקב, is thrown into a situation in which he must compromise his integrity -- lie! And Rivka, through her prophetic vision, understood that this was how Hashem intended Yaakov to "earn" the Brachos, incredulous as it might seem.

Rav Dessler suggests that precisely because Yaakov represented pure truth was he tested in this way. Often, when a person exhibits a certain trait, noble or otherwise, it is simply their nature. It doesn’t necessarily show that it was something the person worked on and acquired through their own efforts. Only if the person can sometimes act in the opposite manner can we be sure that their character is something that they built and own. He can choose to be either truthful or clever. This is the truest test of character, and the only way to prove that Yaakov truly ‘owns’ the attribute of truth. When he is honest it is because he chooses to be so, not because it is his nature.

While realizing that he needed to bend the truth, Yaakov still attempted to minimize the falsehood as much as possible. Yes, he need to do this. But he did not want an utterance of untruthfulness to undermine his character. He was determined to pass the test without any negative effects.

This can be compared to our daily struggle with hishtadlus and bitachon, the tightrope of effort versus faith. We need to put in our full effort, but at the same time we need to believe that ultimately Hashem grants us the success. We need to work, but we don’t want it to affect our bitachon in Hashem.

Yaakov knew that he needed to employ trickery, but he did his best under the circumstances to minimize it as much as possible.

This is a useful message to us all. Sometimes we face situations that do not allow us to act in an optimal manner. Nevertheless, Hashem wants us to do the best we can do, given the circumstances in which we find ourselves!

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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