How do We Bless Ishmael and Esau's Descendants today?

Do Esau and Ishmael deserve the blessings they received?

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

King Solomon with heavenly inspiration tells us The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere God and observe His commandments! For this applies to all mankind: that God will call every creature to account for everything unknown, be it good or bad (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Shabbat 30b: “The end thereof is religious teaching, as it is written, The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere God and observe His commandments! For this applies to all mankind (Ecc. 12:13) What is meant by, For this applies to all mankind?-Said R. Eleazar, The entire world was created only for the sake of this [type of] man. Simeon b. Azzai--others state, Simeon b. Zoma--said: The entire world was created only to be a companion to this man.”

Chagigah 5a: “R. Hanina b. Papa said: Whoever does something [wrong] and repents of it, is forgiven at once, for It is said: But [first] I will step forward to contend against you, and I will act as a relentless accuser against those who have no fear of Me: Who practice sorcery, who commit adultery, who swear falsely, who cheat laborers of their hire, and who subvert [the cause of] the widow, orphan, and stranger, said the Lord of Hosts (Malachi 3:5). But if they do fear Me, they are forgiven at once.”

Surely, Isaac knew this very well in this week’s Torah portion.  Surely Isaac knew that God will select comparable to the selection of the sons of Levi as in:Moses said further to Korah, “Hear me, sons of Levi. Is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has set you apart from the community of Israel and given you access to Him, to perform the duties of the Lord’s Tabernacle and to minister to the community and serve them?(Numbers 16:8-9).

Only God makes that selection as He did to Abraham and only because Abraham obeyed God: I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command. (Gen. 22:17-18).

God made that selection to Isaac stressing that Abraham kept God’s commandments: The Lord had appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land which I point out to you. Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these lands to you and to your heirs, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your heirs as numerous as the stars of heaven, and assign to your heirs all these lands, so that all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your heirs—inasmuch as Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge: My commandments, My laws, and My teachings.” (Gen. 26:2-5).

The Bible records that Isaac sought to bless Esau. Isaac changed his mind and did not want to bless Esau. Only after Esau pleaded with tears did Isaac blessed him: His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” And he said, “I am your son, Esau, your first-born!” Isaac was seized with very violent trembling. “Who was it then,” he demanded, “that hunted game and brought it to me? Moreover, I ate of it before you came, and I blessed him; now he must remain blessed!” When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst into wild and bitter sobbing, and said to his father, “Bless me too, Father!” But he answered, “Your brother came with guile and took away your blessing.” [Esau] said, “Was he, then, named Jacob that he might supplant mea these two times? First he took away my birthright and now he has taken away my blessing!” And he added, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Isaac answered, saying to Esau, “But I have made him master over you: I have given him all his brothers for servants, and sustained him with grain and wine. What, then, can I still do for you, my son?” And Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, Father? Bless me too, Father!” And Esau wept aloud. (Gen. 27:32-37).

The blessing Isaac gave Esau: And his father Isaac answered, saying to him, “See, your abode shall enjoy the fat of the earth And the dew of heaven above. Yet by your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; But when you grow restive, You shall break his yoke from your neck.” (Gen. 27-39-40).

The last blessing Isaac gave Jacob is very spiritual: So Isaac sent for Jacob and blessed him. He instructed him, saying, “You shall not take a wife from among the Canaanite women. Up, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and take a wife there from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother, May El Shaddai bless you, make you fertile and numerous, so that you become an assembly of peoples. May He grant the blessing of Abraham to you and your offspring, that you may possess the land where you are sojourning, which God assigned to Abraham.” (Gen. 28:1-4).

The Rabbinical view is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob obeyed Me and kept My charge: My commandments, My laws, and My teachings while Esau did not. When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp. (Gen. 25:27). 

On Mount Sinai God promises us: Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6).

How could Isaac  give a spiritual blessing to Esau a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors?? Esau, in the midrash, was a wicked man---a murderer, rapist, etc. 

Yet Isaac did want to bless Esau.  Why? Surely to encourage Esau to become good.

Surely Abraham, too, felt and prayed that would only Ishmael become good---we would then have the complete redemption.

How shall we bless descendants of Ishmael and Esau today? We should bless then with peace and physical prosperity -- your abode shall enjoy the fat of the earth And the dew of heaven above.  This should encourage them to repent of evil and to fear God.  If they repent and fear God---we’ll have the complete redemption. May we see it speedily in our times.

All our prayers in the synagogue end with: And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord with one name (Zechariah 14:9).