'A taste for Game' - manipulations in Cyberspace

Ahead of possible elections and in the conscious campaign between the elections

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The Parasha in our everyday life - Toldot - 5781

The relationships and happenings within the family of Yitzchak and Rivka, between the parents and their sons and between the sons and themselves raise several perplexities. We will focus on one of them:

וַֽיִּגְדְּלוּ֙ הַנְּעָרִ֔ים וַיְהִ֣י עֵשָׂ֗ו אִ֛ישׁ יֹדֵ֥עַ צַ֖יִד אִ֣ישׁ שָׂדֶ֑ה וְיַעֲקֹב֙ אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים׃ וַיֶּאֱהַ֥ב יִצְחָ֛ק אֶת־עֵשָׂ֖ו כִּי־צַ֣יִד בְּפִ֑יו וְרִבְקָ֖ה אֹהֶ֥בֶת אֶֽת־יַעֲקֹֽב׃

"When the boys grew up, Eisav became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Yaacov was a mild man who stayed in camp. Yitzchak favored Eisav because he had a taste for game; but Rivka favored Yaacov". (Bereshit 25:27-28)

How can it be explained that Yitzchak loves Eisav and not Yaacov?! Especially in light of the fact that the scripture states: "because he had a taste for game", what impresses Yitzchak about this?! And is that a sufficient reason to prefer him over Yaakov, who the scripture attests to being "a mild man who stayed in camp"?! And does "a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors" describe Eisav's occupation or his character? Sages saw this expression as both:

ידע ציד. לָצוּד וּלְרַמּוֹת אֶת אָבִיו בְּפִיו וְשׁוֹאֲלוֹ אַבָּא, הַאֵיךְ מְעַשְּׂרִין אֶת הַמֶּלַח וְאֶת הַתֶּבֶן? כַּסָּבוּר אָבִיו שֶׁהוּא מְדַקְדֵּק בְּמִצְוֹת איש שדה. כְּמַשְׁמָעוֹ, אָדָם בָּטֵל וְצוֹדֶה בְקַשְׁתּוֹ חַיּוֹת וְעוֹפוֹת:

A cunning hunter literally, understanding hunting — understanding how to entrap and deceive his father with his mouth. He would ask him, “Father how should salt, and straw be tithed”? (Bereshit Rabbah 63:10) (although he knew full well that these are not subject to the law of tithe). Consequently, his father believed him to be very punctilious in observing the divine ordinances.

A man of the field — Explain it literally (i.e., not in a Midrashic manner): a man without regular occupation, hunting beasts and birds with his bow. (Rashi ibid).

According to the Pshat (the basic, usually literal, explanation as understood from the context), his occupation was hunting, but this raises the question: why did Yitzchak value him for this?

The Drash (interpretation of text) – saw Eisav as a manipulator, that told Yitzchak what he wanted to hear and appreciate, and thus he gained his heart:

אֶֽבֶן־חֵ֣ן הַ֭שֹּׁחַד בְּעֵינֵ֣י בְעָלָ֑יו אֶֽל־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֖ר יִפְנֶ֣ה יַשְׂכִּֽיל׃

"A bribe seems like a charm to him who uses it; He succeeds at every turn". (Proverbs 17:8)

הַשֹּׁחַד, לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה? לְאֶבֶן בְּכָל מָקוֹם שֶׁנּוֹפֶלֶת שׁוֹבֶרֶת. מְדַבֵּר בְּיִצְחָק, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת עֵשָׂו כִּי צַיִד בְּפִיו. הָיָה צָד אֶת יִצְחָק הַצַּדִּיק בְּפִיו… כְּשֶׁהָיָה בָא עֵשָׂו מִן הַחוּץ, הָיָה אוֹמֵר לְאָבִיו, אַבָּא, הַמֶּלַח מַהוּ שֶׁתְּהֵא חַיֶּבֶת בַּמַּעֲשֵׂר. וְהָיָה תָמֵהַּ יִצְחָק וְאוֹמֵר: רְאֵה בְּנִי זֶה כַּמָּה מְדַקְדֵּק בַּמִּצְוֹת. וְהָיָה אוֹמֵר לוֹ אָבִיו: בְּנִי, הֵיכָן הָיִיתָ הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה? וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לוֹ: בְּבֵית הַתַּלְמוּד. לֹא כָךְ הוּא הֲלָכָה מִן כָּךְ וְכָךְ, לֹא כָךְ אִסּוּרוֹ, לֹא כָךְ הֶתֵּרוֹ. וּמִתּוֹךְ דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ, הָיָה צָדוֹ בְּפִיו, עַל כֵּן אֲהֵבוֹ.

"What may the gift (mentioned in this verse) be compared to? To a precious stone which shatters whenever it falls. This verse aptly refers to Yitzchak, for it is said: Now Yitzchak loved Eisav because he did eat of his venison (lit. the game was in his mouth) …

Whenever Eisav entered the house, he would ask his father: “My father, is one obliged to tithe for salt?” Yitzchak would exclaim in amazement: “Observe, how scrupulous this son of mine is concerning the commandments!” And when his father would ask him: “Where were you today, my son?” “At the house of study,” the youth would reply, and he would add: “Is this not the law under certain circumstances; are not these things prohibited and these permitted?” By such remarks, he entraped his father with his mouth. That is why he loved him".

(Midrash Tanchuma Toldot 8).

And how did the scammer know what was said in the Beit Midrash? "They said in the midrash we will learn: Eisav would go and stand behind and hear what they were saying, and come to his father and say to him: Did you learn anything new today? And he said to him so and so and received from him his father and he did not know he was a thief". (Torah Shlema Bereshit 25:175 Manuscript Or HaAfela).  

In contrast to the manipulations of Eisav, Yaacov was a mild man 'Yaacov Ish Tam'; transparent and reliable:

תָּם אֵינוֹ בָקִי בְכָל אֵלֶּה, כְּלִבּוֹ כֵּן פִּיו, מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ חָרִיף לְרַמּוֹת קָרוּי תָּם:

"A plain Man — not expert in all these things: as his heart was his mouth (his thoughts and his words tallied). One who is not ingenious in deceiving people is called תם plain, simple" (Rashi there).

Rivka realized Eisav's manipulations and preferred Yaacov's innocence and honesty.

"He also knew how to direct the art of hunting and his tricks against his father. But Rivka's love for Yaacov came of its own accord, he did not "hunt" her, but with his personality, he acquired her love: favored Yaacov" (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch ibid).

The 'Great Midrash' (the Yemenite) had a hard time accepting that Yitzchak fell victim to Eisav's manipulations, and explained that he was clever and wanted to bring him closer to him: "And that our father Yitzchak did not know the deeds of Eisav?! As the verse says:

הֲלֽוֹא־מְשַׂנְאֶ֖יךָ ה' אֶשְׂנָ֑א 'O Hashem, You know I hate those who hate You',

And why did he love him? He loved him, in order to bring him closer and pull him towards him! For if when he is loved his deeds are rotten, if hated and distanced all the more so, and our Sages taught:

שמאל דוחה וימין מקרבת It should always be the left, weaker, hand that pushes another away and the right, stronger, hand that draws him near, so that the sinner will not totally despair of atonement. (Midrash HaGadol Bereshit 25:28)

And there are those who criticized Yitzchak for not bringing him back:

וּמַה תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר: חוֹשֵׂךְ שִׁבְטוֹ שׂוֹנֵא בְנוֹ? לְלַמֶּדְךָ, שֶׁכָּל הַמּוֹנֵעַ בְּנוֹ מִן הַמַּרְדּוּת, סוֹף יוֹצֵא לְתַרְבּוּת רָעָה וְשׂוֹנְאֵהוּ... יוֹצֵא לְתַרְבּוּת רָעָה וְשׂוֹנְאֵהוּ.

"Why, then, does Scripture state: He that spareth his rod hateth his son? This teaches you that whenever a man fails to chastise his son, that son will ultimately act wickedly, and he will come to despise him." (Midrash Tanchuma Shemot 1).

The attribute of צַ֣יִד בְּפִ֑יו 'the manipulative taste for game', is also expressed in other familiar areas:

"From the path of the hunter, who appears to be innocent, but secretly in his heart, he plans on corruption. The whole point is to scam, and in another area: diplomacy. (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch ibid).

Smell of elections is in the air. 'Taste for game' is one of the characteristics of the political world, in general, and before elections in particular. Candidates try to 'hunt' the voters with their mouths. "Taste of game" - that is, has the ability to speak with any nation according to the manner of their speech and according to their common laws and customs, etc." (Yalkut Teimani manuscript Albahiani translated from Arabic, Torah Shlema ibid 180).

Politicians tell every public what they think they want to hear, and scatter promises they have no intention of keeping. Only the innocent among the hearers do believe that these promises have any value.

In the modern age, 'a taste for game' is done openly, on the table, it is done through publicity, public opinion design, and advertising. It produces spins and manipulations and publishes 'Fake News'. It has been a long time since the media reported just news. They became the 'taste of game scene' and a 'battle for consciousness'. Journalists with an agenda move towards Engineering Consciousness' and broadcast their opinions to the public in 'prime time', almost every evening.

One of the modern hunting tools of 'taste for game' is in cyberspace. As we saw in the recent US elections, politicians, and stakeholders in the election results from Israel and abroad will make sophisticated use of it. On social networks, interested parties from Israel and abroad are trying to influence public opinion and election results through 'Fake News', spinmeisters and social bots.

The public seems to be beginning to sober up and select for itself the information it needs from the media and social networks and examines with suspicion whether it is real information, and whether behind the publication of certain information there is someone with his own interests.

Ahead of possible elections the leadership must internalize that the public is thirsty for the innocence, honesty, and credibility of its leaders. It expects a trustworthy leadership that will live up to what it promises. One that tells the truth even when it hurts and is unpleasant for the voters to hear. Provided they know it is being said with intent to do the right thing, even if it is not the most popular one.

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