The Inheritance of Lot and Eisav

This week’s alumni Dvar Torah is by Aminadav Grossman

Parshat Vayishlach features the dramatic reunion of Yaakov and Eisav. After extensive preparations and build up in the text, the brothers reunite in embrace in 33:4. What follows is an exchange between them where Eisav attempts to convince Yaakov to travel together or at least allow Eisav to leave some of his men with him. Yaakov protests, first due to the travel difficulties of small children and cattle, and, ultimately for reasons unspecified (33:12-16).

בראשית פרק לג

יב וַיֹּ֖אמֶר נִסְעָ֣ה וְנֵלֵ֑כָה וְאֵלְכָ֖ה לְנֶגְדֶּֽךָ

יג וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֗יו אֲדֹנִ֤י יֹדֵ֙עַ֙ כִּֽי־הַיְלָדִ֣ים רַכִּ֔ים וְהַצֹּ֥אן וְהַבָּקָ֖ר עָל֣וֹת עָלָ֑י וּדְפָקוּם֙ י֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד וָמֵ֖תוּ כָּל־הַצֹּֽאן

יד יַעֲבָר־נָ֥א אֲדֹנִ֖י לִפְנֵ֣י עַבְדּ֑וֹ וַאֲנִ֞י אֶֽתְנָהֲלָ֣ה לְאִטִּ֗י לְרֶ֨גֶל הַמְּלָאכָ֤ה אֲשֶׁר־לְפָנַי֙ וּלְרֶ֣גֶל הַיְלָדִ֔ים עַ֛ד אֲשֶׁר־אָבֹ֥א אֶל־אֲדֹנִ֖י שֵׂעִֽירָה

טו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר עֵשָׂ֔ו אַצִּֽיגָה־נָּ֣א עִמְּךָ֔ מִן־הָעָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתִּ֑י וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לָ֣מָּה זֶּ֔ה אֶמְצָא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֵ֥י אֲדֹנִֽי

טז וַיָּשָׁב֩ בַּיּ֨וֹם הַה֥וּא עֵשָׂ֛ו לְדַרְכּ֖וֹ שֵׂעִֽירָה

Later, when the Torah begins enumerating Eisav’s descendants, it gives another reason for Eisav and Yaakov’s inability to live together.

בראשית פרק לו

ו וַיִּקַּ֣ח עֵשָׂ֡ו אֶת־נָ֠שָׁיו וְאֶת־בָּנָ֣יו וְאֶת־בְּנֹתָיו֘ וְאֶת־כָּל־נַפְשׁ֣וֹת בֵּיתוֹ֒ וְאֶת־מִקְנֵ֣הוּ וְאֶת־כָּל־בְּהֶמְתּ֗וֹ וְאֵת֙ כָּל־קִנְיָנ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר רָכַ֖שׁ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ אֶל־אֶ֔רֶץ מִפְּנֵ֖י יַעֲקֹ֥ב אָחִֽיו

ז כִּֽי־הָיָ֧ה רְכוּשָׁ֛ם רָ֖ב מִשֶּׁ֣בֶת יַחְדָּ֑ו וְלֹ֨א יָֽכְלָ֜ה אֶ֤רֶץ מְגֽוּרֵיהֶם֙ לָשֵׂ֣את אֹתָ֔ם מִפְּנֵ֖י מִקְנֵיהֶֽם

This closely parallels the earlier description of Lot and Avraham’s inability to live together.

בראשית פרק יג

ה וְגַם־לְל֔וֹט הַהֹלֵ֖ךְ אֶת־אַבְרָ֑ם הָיָ֥ה צֹאן־וּבָקָ֖ר וְאֹהָלִֽים

ו וְלֹא־נָשָׂ֥א אֹתָ֛ם הָאָ֖רֶץ לָשֶׁ֣בֶת יַחְדָּ֑ו כִּֽי־הָיָ֤ה רְכוּשָׁם֙ רָ֔ב וְלֹ֥א יָֽכְל֖וּ לָשֶׁ֥בֶת יַחְדָּֽו

In fact, there are other parallels between the relationships between Yaakov and Eisav, and Lot and Avraham. Both speak about traveling together and are called brothers– although Lot and Avraham are not actually brothers, Avraham says אנשים אחים אנחנו. Both pairs of relatives avert conflict: Avraham and Lot separating as a result of the bickering among their shepherds (reference), while Yaakov prepares for what he fears will be an attack from Eisav.

This is part of a much larger parallel between the lives of Yaakov and Avraham as founding patriarchs (compare for example the places that each visits upon entering the land of Israel). But what is the significance of the comparison between these pairs of relatives?

Eisav and Lot are juxtaposed in one other place in the Torah- in parshat Devarim where the Torah lists the inhabitants of the lands that bnei Yisrael will shortly traverse.

דברים פרק ב

ד וְאֶת־הָעָם֘ צַ֣ו לֵאמֹר֒ אַתֶּ֣ם עֹֽבְרִ֗ים בִּגְבוּל֙ אֲחֵיכֶ֣ם בְּנֵי־עֵשָׂ֔ו הַיֹּשְׁבִ֖ים בְּשֵׂעִ֑יר וְיִֽירְא֣וּ מִכֶּ֔ם וְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם מְאֹֽד

ה אַל־תִּתְגָּר֣וּ בָ֔ם כִּ֠י לֹֽא־אֶתֵּ֤ן לָכֶם֙ מֵֽאַרְצָ֔ם עַ֖ד מִדְרַ֣ךְ כַּף־רָ֑גֶל כִּֽי־יְרֻשָּׁ֣ה לְעֵשָׂ֔ו נָתַ֖תִּי אֶת־הַ֥ר שֵׂעִֽיר

ט וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְקֹוָ֜ק אֵלַ֗י אַל־תָּ֙צַר֙ אֶת־מוֹאָ֔ב וְאַל־תִּתְגָּ֥ר בָּ֖ם מִלְחָמָ֑ה כִּ֠י לֹֽא־אֶתֵּ֨ן לְךָ֤ מֵֽאַרְצוֹ֙ יְרֻשָּׁ֔ה כִּ֣י לִבְנֵי־ל֔וֹט נָתַ֥תִּי אֶת־עָ֖ר יְרֻשָּֽׁה

יב וּבְשֵׂעִ֞יר יָשְׁב֣וּ הַחֹרִים֘ לְפָנִים֒ וּבְנֵ֧י עֵשָׂ֣ו יִֽירָשׁ֗וּם וַיַּשְׁמִידוּם֙ מִפְּנֵיהֶ֔ם וַיֵּשְׁב֖וּ תַּחְתָּ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֧ר עָשָׂ֣ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לְאֶ֙רֶץ֙ יְרֻשָּׁת֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֥ן יְקֹוָ֖ק לָהֶֽם

Bnei Yisrael are forbidden from attacking the descendants of Lot, Amon and Moav, as well as the descendants of Eisav, because each has specifically been given their land as inheritance. The Torah even explicitly compares the conquest of Eisav’s descendants and that of Israel’s. This sheds new light on the parallel splitting of Lot and Eisav from the Abrahamic line in Breishit. While they do not continue as the spiritual and physical heirs of Avraham, they do have a specific inheritance– not rejection.

In certain ways Sefer Breishit is a story of chosenness and rejection in every generation, where one individual, or family, is chosen by God and the other rejected. The stories of Lot and Eisav demonstrate a different model whereby they aren’t chosen but also aren’t totally rejected. For Lot, perhaps due to his relationship with Avraham (Rashbam Devarim 2:19) or his loyalty to Avraham in not betraying Sarah’s identity as Avraham’s wife in Egypt (Rashi 2:5), and Eisav as a descendant of Avraham (Seforno 2:10) or perhaps due to the bracha given him by Yitzchak.

Ramban highlights this point in noting that miracles were performed to enable the descendants of Lot (Seforno says it about Eisav as well) to conquer their land, similar to the way Israel conquered the land of Canaan. The Ramban says that the land of Lot would have been fitting for the descendants of Avraham, had it not been given to Lot.

רמב”ן דברים פרשת דברים פרק ב

 כי בעבור שאמר הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה אל תצר את מואב כי אני נתתי לבני לוט את ער ירושה, יספר הכתוב כי הארץ ראויה לזרע אברהם לולי שנתנה לבני לוט. ואמר כי הארץ ההיא ישבו בה מעולם עם גדול ורם כענקים, ולכך יקראו אותם המואבים אמים לגודל האימה אשר יטילו על רואיהם, והנה השם עשה נס לבני לוט לכבוד אברהם ויכלו להם וירשום מפניהם, ואין ראוי לגזול מהם הארץ אשר נתן ה’ להם במעשה נס

Thus, the parallels between Lot and Eisav in Sefer Breishit reflect their connection as relatives of Avraham that retain a measure of divine chosenness in their inheritance. This status has ramifications for how Bnei Yisrael are told to interact with each of their descendants and their land later in Tanach. Perhaps it most reinforces Rashi’s summation of the meaning of Sefer Breishit at the beginning of the book (put in mouth of Bnei Yisrael) that the entire land belongs to Hashem, who distributes it as is fitting.

כל הארץ של הקדוש ברוך הוא היא, הוא בראה ונתנה לאשר ישר בעיניו, ברצונו נתנה להם וברצונו נטלה מהם ונתנה לנו

Aminadav Grossman (SBM 2012) learns in the kollel at Yeshivat Har Etzion.  

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni devar Torah, Uncategorized

Comments are closed.