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How To Deal With A Crook

Toldos (Genesis 25:19)

Do Not Steal ..........Respect Other People's Rights

Two of the most difficult stories in the Torah are in this week’s Parsha. The first is when Yaacov extorts his twin brother Esav into selling him the birthright for a bowl of lentils. The second is when Yaacov, following his mother's advice, coats himself in sheepskins and pretends to be Esav in order to deceive Yitzchak, their father, into giving him his final blessing.

How could the holy and righteous patriarchs Rivka and Yaacov extort, deceive, and steal? Even more complexing, this is a story in the Torah which teaches us the ways of G-d, yet we never find that G-d ever admonished or punished them for these sins?

The poor victim in both cases was Esav. We have a tradition going as far back as the Talmud to call him Esav Harasha, the wicked. Esav was a terrible man. He was deceptive, he stole, he committed every sin in the book, and he never repented. How do you deal with such a person? “With the kind, deal kindly; with the pure, deal purely; with the faithful, deal faithfully; with the crooked, deal deceitfully.” Psalms 18:26-27 Who can follow this? Who is to say that another person is truly crooked? Imagine the courage Rivka and Yaacov must have had to rely on their judgment, especially since Yitzchak thought there was some hope for Esav.

For a gentle and loving people, this is the harsher side of our heritage. Hopefully, the times when we have to resort to it are few and far between and let’s never forget the first three rules - with the kind, deal kindly; with the pure, deal purely; with the faithful, deal faithfully.

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