The Torah describes the personality of Jacob as “a pure man.” Some may find this surprising, since the Torah also describes Jacob tricking his father into giving him the blessings intended for Esau, and for devising a system through which he became wealthy at his father in law/employer’s expense.

Lest one think that Jacob had abandoned his pure nature and had turned to a life of deception and thievery, G-d expresses his love of Jacob and his displeasure with Esau (Malachi 1:2-3). It is also Jacob who the Sages of the Talmud associate with the virtue of Truth (see Micah 7:20) — quite a different picture! How are we to understand the personality of our Patriarch?

One who has a pure and honest nature is often at risk of being too trusting and naive. It’s unfortunate, but there is no scarcity of people who are ready to swallow such people alive just to make a few extra dollars or to earn some level of prestige.

Jacob was pure, but he knew how to survive in the face of Esau and Laban. Jacob is portrayed in this seemingly negative light to demonstrate that true virtue requires the balance of keen judgment, the willingness to go against your nature when the situation calls for it. (Based on Taam V’Daas)

Good Shabbos!
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis –

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