He [Yitzchok] drew close and kissed him. He smelled the fragrance
of his garments and blessed him.
Gan Eden For Sinners 1
Two midrashim propose opposing understandings of the fragrance that Yitzchok
One midrash, cited by Rashi, observes that Yaakov was clad in a goatskin,
whose scent is particularly noisome. The pleasant scent simply could not
have come from Yaakov’s upper garment. The midrash proposes that a different
scent completely masked and overpowered that of the goatskin. When Yaakov
entered, a scent of Gan Eden entered with him. It was this scent that
Yitzchok responded to with a
The gemara 2 takes a different approach. It notes the similarity
of the words begadav/garments and bogedav/renegades. Yitzchok sensed through
Divine inspiration the sweet savor of the mitzvos of even the renegades of
Israel, the sinners who nonetheless are saturated with good deeds.
These approaches seem to be entirely unrelated. That is not necessarily
Pirkei d’Rav Eliezer 3fleshes out the conversation surrounding
Yitzchok’s berachah to Yaakov. The scene begins with Yitzchok telling Esav
that this evening, the night of Pesach, everyone would be reciting Hallel.
Heavenly reservoirs of berachah would open up. It would be the perfect time
to give him a berachah. He should prepare delicacies for him, so that he
could give Esav that blessing.
Rivka then has a similar conversation with Yaakov, adding that on this
special night his descendants would be freed from servitude. Yaakov procures
two kids and prepares them. One of the two was for the Pesach offering; the
other was for his meal, so that the Pesach would be eaten as it is supposed
to be, in a state of satiety.
Yaakov complied with Yitzchok’s request, and prepared a kid in the manner
that his descendents would prepare one when released from Egyptian bondage.
Another midrash 4 describes the scene when that moment of
deliverance in Egypt finally arrived. Many Jews balked at Moshe’s
instruction to circumcise themselves. Moshe went ahead and prepared his
korban Pesach. Hashem instructed the winds from the four corners of the
earth to blow through Gan Eden, carrying its scent and embedding it in
Moshe’s Pesach. The aroma was overpowering. The Jews gathered around Moshe,
asking to be included in his korban. He, of course, reminded them that they
would not be able to partake of it without first submitting to bris milah.
This time they complied. The blood of circumcision comingled with the blood
of the Pesach. Hashem took each person who participated, kissed him and
We can assume that when Yaakov prepared the goat for his father as a korban
Pesach, his intention was holy and pure, and succeeded as well to bring with
it the scent of Gan Eden, as described in the first midrash we mentioned above.
Now the reason that G-d ordered the winds at the time of the Exodus to carry
the scent of Gan Eden was to persuade those who initially refused His
directive to perform bris milah. Yaakov understood, this, and thus beheld
the great love that Hashem has for Jewish sinners! He comprehended how much
good, how many mitzvos would come from those sinners – all the more so from
the righteous of Israel.
Yaakov comprehended as well how Hashem would react – lifting each sinner,
kissing them and blessing them. Yaakov therefore acted in the same manner.
Sensing the scent of Gan Eden, he embraced the son in front of him, and gave
him a berachah!
The two midrashim are but two sides of a coin. It is only together that we
understand what Yitzchok felt as he was overcome with the urge to bless his
1. Based on Be’er Yosef, Bereishis 27:27
2. Sanhedrin 37A
3. Pirkei d’Rav Eliezer 32
4. Shemos Rabbah 19:5