In addition to Yitzchak Avinu being spiritually great person, he was also brilliantly wise.
So how did Yitzchak Avinu almost give Esav his bracha?
As Rav Miller explains, had Yitzchak done so, we would have Shevet Esav (the Tribe of Esav) in addition to Shevet Reuven and all the rest.
We would say "Elokai Esav" at the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei, in addition to saying "Elokai Avraham, Elokai Yitzchak, v'Elokai Yaakov."
(Or, as Rav Miller notes, we wouldn't being saying it because Esav would've wiped us out by now, rachmana litzlan.)
But after Yitzchak Avinu dedicated the future to Yaakov Avinu, and then Esav strode in asking for his firstborn blessing...only then did Yitzchak Avinu realize what happened.
Only then did Yitzchak Avinu realize who Esav really was all this time.
How can that be?
What's going on here?
Esav Entrapped Himself
Esav deceived himself.
When Esav asked his father all sorts of chumradik questions ("How do we tithe salt?"), Esav genuinely sought to be machmir (stringent) on all sorts of matters.
Esav felt sincere.
From beginning to end, everything Esav did in the fields with trapping deer, then preparing the most delectable venison, and then serving his father while wearing his best clothing—it was all for the sake of honoring his father.
It really was.
Esav went to tremendous lengths to honor his father & genuinely viewed himself as superior to his twin Yaakov, who sat in a tent all day communing with Hashem, polishing his character, and learning Torah.
Of course, Yaakov Avinu honored his father on a very high level.
But Esav exerted himself for his father more than anyone else did for their father.
So Esav believed in his own righteousness.
Esav viewed himself as a tzaddik.
And, says Rav Miller, the person convinced of his own righteousness is the most dangerous deceiver of all.
Esav as the Prototype for Understanding the Abusive Personality
The most dangerous, brutal, and bloodthirsty villains in the world have always been those convinced of their own righteousness.
We see this on the macro-level with the Nazis who genuinely considered themselves victims of the non-Aryans. This perceive victimhood lead them to commit atrocities on a level never seen before.
Communists, convinced of their own righteousness & victimhood, carried out persecution & murder by the millions.
And what more merciless warrior exists today than the one willing to martyr himself for Jihad?
On the micro-level, we see that abusive people always believe themselves in the right. They often view themselves as victims, which enables them to see any abuse they commit as a type of self-defense.
People with personality disorders play terrible mind games with others, sabotage others, go on lashon hara campaigns, and treat others horribly (while being nice at other times, which makes their victims feel crazy)—and consider THEMSELVES the victim the entire time.
This sincere belief in their own righteousness is what makes them so convincing to outsiders. (And even confuses their victims.)
As Rav Miller states on page 18:
Some of the people are so wrong that they don't realize how wicked they are.
And it’s based on nothing but some small middah, a foolish characteristic, a weakness in a trait of character, that misleads him.
Only that no one even imagines that he is the guilty party.
This knowledge has been there all along.
There's No School like Home
In the tents of Rivka Imeinu & Yaakov Avinu, a person could learn how to be the best he could be.
These twin boys merited the 2 most exceptional parents in the world at that time...and only Yaakov really took advantage of that gift.
On pages 9-11, Rav Miller explains how the formal Jewish schooling initiated millennia ago was actually a step down for Am Yisrael.
Previously, Jewish children received everything they needed from their parents, probably grandparents & surrounding family members too.
He describes what the Jewish street used to be like & the respect children felt toward elderly people who sought to curb unfitting behavior in children outside.
Because he remained at home under the tutelage of his parents, Yaakov Avinu learned how NOT to lie to himself.
He learned to take constructive criticism, to see himself honestly, and to truly refine his character.
Making the Most of Mishlei
Even in English with no commentary.
It's incredibly valuable.
It took me months & months, but I went through it with Rashi & the Metzudot, and could not believe how powerful it was, how much it affected me.
I'd love to go through it again with Radak and Malbim, but haven't managed to get my act together to do it. A good "shortcut" is the Me'am Lo'ez on Mishlei in English. (Just for knowing, it's 2 volumes.)
While Shlomo Hamelech wrote down the values & parables as Mishlei, the original ideas & parables come from our Patriarchs & Matriarchs—meaning, Yaakov Avinu basically learned Mishlei in the tent.
Mishlei & Tehillim also explain how Hashem examines our minds & hearts.
We convince ourselves of our own victimhood, cuteness, cleverness, or hilarity.
But Hashem sees our real motivation.
As Rav Miller explains on page 18:
And so what will it help to deceive yourself if Hakodosh Boruch Hu is going to measure your mind?
Hakodosh Boruch Hu is measuring the depths of your mind, what are your real intentions, your real thoughts, your real motivations.
I know a Yungerman in Lakewood whose father Zatzal had a dream in which a Yid told him that he was not allowed to get to his place in Gan Eden for thirty years, because he never took care of his Ka'as problem!
This is worse than Gehinom!
The problem with ka'as (anger) is mentioned with uncompromising severity so much all throughout Torah scholarship.
What was this man telling himself his entire life that he never went to work on his anger?
Think about it.
And think of how that applies to us.
The Self-Righteous Self-Lover's Final Destination
Now if that's the case, there's one bribe that we have all received that puts us out of commission permanently and that’s self-love.
The biggest bribe in the world is love of one's self.
Everyone has persuaded himself that he's doing right because what bribery is there greater than love of yourself?
And everybody is subject to such bribery!
You have to watch out always because all day long you’re accepting that bribe!
Real healthy self-love, as described by the Pele Yoetz, means being truly good to yourself with sincerely good middot.
But feel-good self-love leads to narcissism.
No one describes it better than Rav Miller here on page :
Eisav was a ramai [deceiver], not because he intentionally came to deceive.
He thought, “I'll be machmir with melach, why not?”
I'll ask my father “Eich me’asrin es hamelach?”
It wasn’t just a trickery trying to deceive his father. No, he had deceived himself!
But Hakodosh Boruch Hu said, “You want a chumrah in melach?! Very good! But what about a chumrah in middos tovos? What about a chumra in recognizing your motivations? That’s the most difficult thing and that's what I'm waiting for."
And that’s what it means that when Eisav walked into his father’s tent to take the brachos that he thought he deserved, that Yitzchok saw the opening of Gehinom right there in the tent.
Yitzchok saw himself standing on the precipice of Gehinom but he saw that Eisav was already falling in!
And that’s why Yitzchok was shaking terribly; not only did he realize the mistake he had almost made but more importantly, he saw now that the mistake was caused by the self-deception of his son.
He saw now that not knowing yourself is the opening to Gehinom.
Eisav had brought ruin upon himself because he wasn’t willing to study himself, and because of that he had almost ruined the Am Yisroel forever.
How feeling victimized lead to the extremes of Nazism:
The Pele Yoetz (among others) on self-love:
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