Torah: A Women's Commentary
Are you really my son Esau...Isaac is not only physically blind, but on a deeper level he refuses to recognize what would be clear to any parent. Can his knowledge of his children truly be so superficial that he can only distinguish between them physically?
Rabbi Norman Cohen in Self, Struggle & Change
If Isaac did recognize Jacob, why then is he pictured as asking his son a series of repetitive questions about his identity? “Who are you, my son?” “Come closer that I may feel you, my son—whether you are really my son Esau or not!” “Are you really my son Esau?” These piercing questions have another purpose. When Isaac asks Jacob, “Mi ata beni” (Who are you, my son?), he is giving him the opportunity to acknowledge who he is and what he is doing, since the decision is already made as to who will receive the blessing. He is really asking, “What is your makeup?” “What is your essential nature?” “Are you Jacob or Esau, or both?”
- sourced from "On Being Blind by Eric Contzius
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Isaac fully understood the nature of his two sons. He loved Esau but this did not blind him to the fact that Jacob would be the heir of the covenant. Therefore Isaac prepared two sets of blessings, one for Esau, the other for Jacob. He blessed Esau (Gen. 27: 28-29) with the gifts he felt he would appreciate: wealth and power: “May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness – an abundance of grain and new wine” – that is, wealth. “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you” – that is, power. These are not the covenantal blessings.
The covenantal blessings that God had given Abraham and Isaac were completely different. They were about children and a land. It is this blessing that Isaac later gave Jacob before he left home (Gen. 28: 3-4): “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples” – that is, children. “May He give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham” – that is, land. This was the blessing Isaac had intended for Jacob all along. There was no need for deceit and disguise.