Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Toledot: Esav's Mantle of Hair

Esav is born ruddy, all over like a hairy mantle. Bereishit 25:25:
כה וַיֵּצֵא הָרִאשׁוֹן אַדְמוֹנִי, כֻּלּוֹ כְּאַדֶּרֶת שֵׂעָר; וַיִּקְרְאוּ שְׁמוֹ, עֵשָׂו. 25 And the first came forth ruddy, all over like a hairy mantle; and they called his name Esau.
This is one basis for the name Edom (red), for Esav, which Shadal notes means hair in Arabic, and for Seir.

But what is the implication of this hairy mantle of Esav?

Shadal explains:
כאדרת : כתרגומו ככלן , והוא מלשון יונית והוא מלבוש עליון המחמם את הגוף (ר' וואלף היידנהיים בהבנת המקרא). אדמוני : ששערו אדום . כאדרת שער : מילת אדרת סמוכה לשער (לפי הטעמים ודלא כראב"ע ) כמו ולא ילבשו אדרת שער ( זכריה י"ג ד' ), ואין כל אדרת שעירה, כי אין ענין אדרת אלא דבר המקיף את הגוף ( עיין פירושי בשמות ט"ו ו' ). עשו : ענינו בלשון ערבית בעל שער.

Thus, his body was entirely covered with a "mantle" of his own red hair. And there are mantles of hair, and other kinds of mantles as well.

However, there might be other implications to this hairy mantle as well. Picking up from the pasuk in Zechariah which Shadal just cited, we see that prophets in general, and false prophets in particular, wore mantles of hair. Zechariah 13:4:
ב וְהָיָה בַיּוֹם הַהוּא נְאֻם יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, אַכְרִית אֶת-שְׁמוֹת הָעֲצַבִּים מִן-הָאָרֶץ, וְלֹא יִזָּכְרוּ, עוֹד; וְגַם אֶת-הַנְּבִיאִים וְאֶת-רוּחַ הַטֻּמְאָה, אַעֲבִיר מִן-הָאָרֶץ. 2 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered; and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.
ג וְהָיָה, כִּי-יִנָּבֵא אִישׁ עוֹד, וְאָמְרוּ אֵלָיו אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ יֹלְדָיו לֹא תִחְיֶה, כִּי שֶׁקֶר דִּבַּרְתָּ בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה; וּדְקָרֻהוּ אָבִיהוּ וְאִמּוֹ יֹלְדָיו, בְּהִנָּבְאוֹ. 3 And it shall come to pass that, when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begot him shall say unto him: 'Thou shalt not live, for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD'; and his father and his mother that begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.
ד וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, יֵבֹשׁוּ הַנְּבִיאִים אִישׁ מֵחֶזְיֹנוֹ--בְּהִנָּבְאֹתוֹ; וְלֹא יִלְבְּשׁוּ אַדֶּרֶת שֵׂעָר, לְמַעַן כַּחֵשׁ. 4 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be brought to shame every one through his vision, when he prophesieth; neither shall they wear a hairy mantle to deceive;
ה וְאָמַר, לֹא נָבִיא אָנֹכִי: אִישׁ-עֹבֵד אֲדָמָה אָנֹכִי, כִּי אָדָם הִקְנַנִי מִנְּעוּרָי. 5 but he shall say: 'I am no prophet, I am a tiller of the ground; for I have been made a bondman from my youth.'
ו וְאָמַר אֵלָיו, מָה הַמַּכּוֹת הָאֵלֶּה בֵּין יָדֶיךָ; וְאָמַר, אֲשֶׁר הֻכֵּיתִי בֵּית מְאַהֲבָי. {פ} 6 And one shall say unto him: 'What are these wounds between thy hands?' Then he shall answer: 'Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.' {P}

The context would seem to be that of a false prophet. All these prophets will no longer wear their hairy mantles.

Rashi there notes:
a hairy mantle So is the custom of those who entice or draw away [the people], to enwrap themselves with mantles as though they are righteous men in order that their lies be accepted.
But, it might be general prophetic custom to wear a mantle. After all, consider I Kings 19:13, as one example:
יג וַיְהִי כִּשְׁמֹעַ אֵלִיָּהוּ, וַיָּלֶט פָּנָיו בְּאַדַּרְתּוֹ, וַיֵּצֵא, וַיַּעֲמֹד פֶּתַח הַמְּעָרָה; וְהִנֵּה אֵלָיו, קוֹל, וַיֹּאמֶר, מַה-לְּךָ פֹה אֵלִיָּהוּ. 13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said: 'What doest thou here, Elijah?'
What, then, to make of Esav's mantle of hair?

We could say that this is just an article of clothing, which happens to have this significance in other contexts. And it was chosen here because that is just what he looked like.

Alternatively, we can say that he was like one of these false prophets, wearing the hairy mantle and thus projecting a false aura of righteousness.

Indeed, this fits in with themes developed in certain midrashim about Esav's general attitude, such as his asking how to tithe straw and salt.

Thus, when the pasuk in parshas Toldos tell us:
כח וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת-עֵשָׂו, כִּי-צַיִד בְּפִיו; וְרִבְקָה, אֹהֶבֶת אֶת-יַעֲקֹב. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; and Rebekah loved Jacob.
we can interpret tzayid befiv as he hunted Yitzchak with his mouth.

And indeed, all the midrashim about the coat that Esav wore, inherited all the way from Adam haRishon, which had the smell of Gan Eden, all fits in with this.

Furthermore, it is ironic how Yaakov takes Esav's coat and uses it in exactly this role, to deceive. Bereishit 27:15:
טו וַתִּקַּח רִבְקָה אֶת-בִּגְדֵי עֵשָׂו בְּנָהּ הַגָּדֹל, הַחֲמֻדֹת, אֲשֶׁר אִתָּהּ, בַּבָּיִת; וַתַּלְבֵּשׁ אֶת-יַעֲקֹב, בְּנָהּ הַקָּטָן. 15 And Rebekah took the choicest garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son.
This to transform himself from the smooth character to the naturally hairy Esav (which is why he puts on goat skins as well, in the next pasuk).

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