This post is part of a weekly series on the Nishmablog presenting the questions to which he responded and the answers that he gave.
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Question: Given the deceitfulness of Jacob in his dealings with Esau and Isaac, how is it that he became a patriarch and his name synonymous with Israel? [I.e., Why should a person who acts in less than an exemplary manner be revered as one of the patriarchs? - Admin.] Werner Knurr, MD
Here are three approaches to the question:
1. Jacob was appointed Patriarch by the Word of God. As such it's axiomatic regardless of any [perceived] character flaws
2. The Power of Forgiveness. Whatever Jacob's Flaws originally were, they were eventually forgiven.
3. Jacob in reality usurped nothing. It was only Esau's allegation that Jacob was a usurper, but that it not [necessarily] the Torah's own perception
i) Jacob's designation as Patriarch is ubiquitous throughout Tanach and is quite emphatically stated and repeated in Parshat Sh'mot [Exodus 3] at the "burning bush." Thus the Booming Voice of G-d HIMSELF chose Jacob, not us
ii) Everyone Eventually Forgave Jacob - Thus any wrong Jacob had committed had been righted.
(1) That Rebecca was OK with Jacob's actions seems obvious
(2) That Isaac was eventually OK with Jacob's actions is evident during the 2nd blessing in Toldoth freely bequeathed by Isaac. [Genesis 28:1-4]
(3) That G-d was OK is evident with the man/angel who wrestled with Jacob and changed his name from Jacob [grasper] to Israel.
(4) That Esau himself eventually became reconciled is obvious from his Hug and Kiss of Jacob.
iii) I challenge the premise that Jacob willfully did anything wrong at all, and at most he was a reluctant pawn in a game being played at a Cosmic Level. I recently blogged my position on this at: