This week's parasha tells how Isaac became blind in his old age. (Gen. 27:1) For what reason did this happen? Certainly age was not the reason; in the era of the forefathers, many people were in their physical prime at Isaac's age (123), and blindness was not mentioned about anyone else. Also, shortly before this verse, the Torah states, "…and G‑d blessed Isaac". (Gen. 25:11) Shouldn't G‑d's blessing prevent illnesses and in particular blindness of which it is said, "one who is blind is as deceased". (Nedarim 64b) If so, what was the reason for Isaac's blindness? In blinding Isaac, G‑d enabled Jacob to receive the blessings…

One of the reasons given is that Isaac favored Esau, and G‑d knew that he wished to give the primary blessings to Esau. In blinding Isaac, G‑d enabled Jacob to receive the blessings since Isaac would not see who he was blessing. If Isaac could see, he would undoubtedly bless Esau, so G‑d's purpose was to reroute the blessings to Jacob.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out a basic question: Why did G‑d have to make Isaac blind for Jacob to be blessed. Wasn't there a more direct way through showing Isaac how evil Esau really was. If Isaac could come to that conclusion, then of course he would chose Jacob to be blessed. Also, this revelation about Esau shouldn't have come as too much of a shock. Isaac already knew that Esau's wives were wicked women who served idols. Even if Isaac excused Esau as not being responsible for his wives' sins or for unsuccessfully trying to change their ways, this fact surely must indicate something as to Esau's character. Also, even Isaac admitted that Esau "does not mention G‑d's name very often". (Rashi on verse Gen. 27:21) If so, why didn't G‑d just show Isaac that Esau was a very sinful person and undeserving of the blessings?

The answer is that G‑d did not want to speak slanderously even about an evil person such as Esau. (Likewise, when Joshua asked G‑d for the name of the perpetrator of a sin, G‑d answered "Am I your tale-bearer?"; Joshua had to discover the man's identity through other means. See Joshua ch. 7.) Therefore, the means for ensuring Jacob's receiving the blessings was through causing Isaac's blindness. Slanderous speech…is much worse than actual murder…

G‑d Himself took extreme measures so as to refrain from slanderous speech about the truly evil Esau. By observing how G‑d, Who is able to judge in a just manner, avoided slander against the completely wicked Esau, we learn that we must go to great lengths to not speak badly of any other Jew. Slanderous speech kills three: the teller, the listener, and the one being spoken about. (Arachin 15b) The Baal Shem Tov explained that this killing is spiritual, which is much worse than actual murder! (HaYom Yom) May we all succeed in absolutely refraining from slanderous speech and in speaking only positive things about fellow Jews. May all this hasten the revelation of Mashiach, now!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.