"And Jacob left from Be'er Sheva and went to Haran." (Gen. 28:10)

The Midrash Rabba (Gen. 68:7) offers a number of interpretations of the phrase "And Jacob left from Be'er..." One interpretation is truly amazing.

Rebbe Brachya said that he left from the well of blessings. Jacob fled from Esau so that Esau would not corner him and contend that he took his blessings through deceit. "Then", said Jacob, "all of the efforts of my mother would have been for nothing." This Midrash needs explanation. Rebecca was always clear-headed and focused…

Rebecca, the mother of Jacob and Esau, was a singular figure in our history. Rebecca was always clear-headed and focused. She always knew exactly what to do.

When Eliezer, the servant of Abraham went to Haran to find a wife for Isaac, he reasoned that only a young lady who exemplified the quality of chesed would be fitting to join the household of Abraham. So he devised his plan, whereby he would request water to drink. If she also offered to water the camels, that would be a sign of her true quality of chesed.

But how would such chesed mesh with the stern gevura of Isaac? Maybe Eliezer should have looked for a young lady who more exemplified gevura? The gevura of Isaac turns out to be only a garment…

In the second circuit of Simchat Torah, which is the circuit of Isaac, we call out "Resplendent in attire, grant us success" (in Hebrew, "Hadur Bil'Vusho, Hatzlicha Na"). "Hadar", "resplendent", is an aspect of gevura. Here the gevura is called "attire", something which only enclothes that which is underneath, but is not that thing itself. The gevura of Isaac turns out to be only a garment, not his essence, as it is written, "How abundant is Your goodness, which You have hidden for the ones who fear You!" (Psalms 31:20)

Rebecca's incredible chesed overshadows her gevura. She always knew what to do. She never entertained any doubts. When she met Eliezer, she knew to water his camels despite the time and energy it would take, and despite the fact the he had his own water jugs. When he asked her numerous questions about her family, she knew to answer each one in the proper order. When her mother and brother asked her if she would agree to go back with Eliezer to become the wife of Isaac, she answers in one word, "Elech!" ("I will go.") Rebecca was gevura enclothed by chesed

When she was barren she knew to pray to G‑d, and she knew the right prayer. When she felt the bickering in her belly, she knew that this was not the quality of the tzadik that she was supposed to give birth to. She went to the sages to inquire and was relieved to find out that she was going to have twins. One would indeed be a tzadik, one not. When she heard that Isaac was going to bless Esau first, she again knew just what to do. Without any wavering, she prepared Jacob to receive the blessings instead. This quality of gevura underlies the chesed which we normally associate with Rebecca.

Rebecca was gevura enclothed by chesed. Isaac was chesed enclothed by gevura. That is indeed a match. Jacob, being tiferet, was the true progeny of the union of Isaac and Rebecca.

Understanding this, Jacob thought to himself, "How can I let my mother's efforts go to waste? As always, she did what was proper and necessary. There should be no question in my mind as to whom the blessings of our father belong to." So Jacob fled to Haran, with the blessings still intact.

(First published in B'Ohel Hatzadikim, parashat Vayetzei 5759; www.nishmas.org)