At the beginning of our Parsha we are told that, with the help of much prayer, Rivka becomes pregnant. However, this pregnancy is not without incident. Perek 25 Pasuk 22 tells us that the children somehow “struggled” inside the womb. Rivka then proceeds to ask, “Lama Zeh Anochi?” “Why am I?” and to beseech Hashem. There are many ways to see this “struggle.” Rashi, quoting Chazal, tells us that one interpretation has Yaakov and Esav shaking as they pass their respective callings, houses of learning and houses of idol worship, respectively. The other Maamar Chazal quoted by Rashi explains that Yaakov and Esav represent the struggle between the two basic forces of the world that are at odds even until this very day.
Rivka, sensing this battle, questions her existence. Rashi comments that she was referring to the immense pain of pregnancy. What purpose can there be in a person suffering to such a degree while she is trying to complete such a noble and holy process? She then proceeds to pray to Hashem and actually receives an answer. Hashem tells her of the two nations inside of her and adds that the elder will serve the younger.
The Or HaChaim asks two questions on Rashi’s explanation. First, it seems odd that a Tzadeket such as Rivka would question her existence or her pregnancy based on pain. Second, the answer provided by Hashem does not seem to answer her question: Why the pain? Hence, the Or HaChaim explains that Rivka thought that the pain meant that the children would not survive. She thought the pregnancy would not go to term. This being the case, she then asks, “Why?” This is not the “why” of existence, but the “why” relating to the purpose of her pregnancy. This pregnancy was a miracle! How could Hashem perform a miracle and then nullify it? Now Rivka’s prayer is all that much more powerful. She is pleading with Hashem to establish this pregnancy and not let this miracle be lost. How selfless one can be!
Most of us, if placed in her position, would be praying for our own lives and our children’s. However, Rivka also prayed for the survival of Hashem’s miracle, a type of Kiddush Hashem. We all know of her tremendous dedication as a parent from this and the rest of the Parsha. May we all be Zoche to keep Rivka before us as a role model, and to begin to travel on the road to Kiddush Hashem that she has paved.
Rivka, the True Mother
by Shlomo Tanenbaum
In Perek 25 Pasuk 28 of this week’s Parsha, the Torah says, “Vayeehav Yitzchak Et Esav Ki Tzayid Bifiv ViRivka Ohevet Et Yaakov,” “Yitzchak loved Esav because of the game in his mouth, but Rivka loved Yaakov.” The Shlah notes a very interesting use of tense that is used in describing the love of these two parents. By Yitzchak, the Torah uses the past tense as Yitzchak loved Esav because of what Esav did. Notably, Esav trapped animals and fed the meat to his father. However, Yitzchak’s love was conditional and dependant on the fact the Esav trapped game for him. In addition, past tense signifies that it is a matter that does not endure. Conversely, by Rivka, the present tense is used because Rivka constantly loves Yaakov for who he is. Therefore, Rivka’s love was unconditional and independent of any motive. This explanation is also hinted to by Targum Onkelus who interprets this Pasuk as meaning, Yitzchak loved Esav because he put game in his mouth, but Rivka loves Yaakov.
The Maggid of Dubno explains this Pasuk along the same lines. He says that in the non-Jewish world one is defined by what he does. However, in the Jewish world one is defined by who he is. Rabbi Frand extends this interpretation of the Maggid by commenting that this Pasuk is very relevant to our lives today. Why did Yitzchak love Esav only because of the food that Esav gave him? Did Yitzchak not follow the commandment to love every Jew like one’s self? Moreover, Esav was Yitzchak’s own son, why would he love him conditionally if most parents love their children because they their children?
Rabbi Frand explains that Esav represented non-Jewish values as he was a mighty warrior and hunter who was strong, handsome, and intimidating. Esav wanted people to admire not because he was intrinsically important, but because of these qualities. He wanted people to say to themselves, “Look at that Esav. Look how strong he is. Look how well he hunts.” And indeed people did admire him in this way. However, Yaakov wanted to be admired because of the kind of person he was, an Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim. He wanted people to respect him because of his kindness and hatred for dishonesty. He was defined not by his physical attributes, but by the kind of person he represented. Similarly, today, society defines a person by what he does. For example, if one is a doctor, lawyer, or CEO then he is important. However, a poor person seems unimportant. The most well known question that every kid is asked is, what do you want to be when you grow up? However, with Jews it is hopefully different. If one asks a Jewish child what he wants to be, he will hopefully respond: a Baal Chesed, Baal Tzedaka, a Talmud Chacham, or an Oveid Hashem. Of course a Jew will get a job, but he is not defined by his occupation, but by his actions. It is not the question of what you want to be, but of what you want to do. Hopefully, we will not define ourselves and our children by their occupation, but by their character and integrity, recognizing that we are a Tzelem Elokim, an image of Hashem. Rivka Imeinu knew the proper perspective of Judaism; let us follow in her footsteps.
Don’t Judge A Person By the Text
by Dov Rossman
Out of the three Avot, the Torah mentions Yitzchak the least, and consequently we know relatively little about his life. Even in the few places where events in Yitzchak’s life are detailed, he is usually not the main character. For example, the story of the Akeida is told in reference to the greatness of Avraham Avinu and not of Yitzchak.
One event involving Yitzchak that the Torah does mention is in Parshat Toldot when Yitzchak reopens the wells which Avraham dug. But this event does not tell us much about Yitzchak’s personality, and its relevance, at first glance, is questionable. However, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soleveitchik z”l, states that the amount of text dedicated to Yitzchak should not reflect on his greatness, but instead should be as an indication of his exclusive devotion to Hashem.
Kabbalah connects each of the Avot’s personalities to an attribute of Hashem. Avraham represents Chessed, Yitzchak represents Gevura, and Yaakov represents Emet. The Rav explains that Avraham’s trait of kindness is expressed at length because it involves moving away from one’s self to help others. Yitzchak’s trait, however, is the opposite; it is one’s retreat towards Hashem. Yitzchak remained in connection with Hashem for a majority of his life because much of his life was private with Hashem. Thus, the Torah tells us little about him. Yitzchak even waits until after the Akeida to get married, as up until that point he belonged exclusively to Hashem. When he was lying on the Mizbeiach as a Korban to Hashem, he was at the peek of his relationship with Hashem. Then, once he had reached the highest level of his connection with Hashem, he was able to move outward while still retaining his Gevurah along with an additional trait of Chessed, which he learned from his father.
Even though it seems irrelevant to the reader, and in doing so the Torah gives no praise to Yitzchak, the Torah tell us about Yitzchak reopening the wells that his father had dug. The significance of the event becomes clearer when viewing the entire life of Yitzchak Avinu. After the Plishtim closed Avraham’s wells, not only did Yitzchak reopen them, but he gave them their original names as well. This shows the significant transition of Yitzchak becoming a more public person, and continuing in the ways of his father.
In addition to reopening the wells, Yitzchak dug three new wells. The Plishtim objected to the construction of the first two wells, but not of the third. The Ramban states that these three wells can be compared to the three Batei Hamikdash. The first two were destroyed because of the objection of the other nations, but the third will be built with no objection, thus causing our borders to expand. Yitzchak not only went from being private to reaching out to a spouse, but he gave hope for hundreds of generations to come.
-Adapted from an article written by Rabbi Shalom Baum in Torah Insights
by Willie Roth
In this week's Parsha, the Torah says, “Eileh Toldot Avraham; Avraham Holid Et Yitzchak,” "These are the children of Avraham, Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak." On this Pasuk, Rashi asks why the Pasuk repeats “Avraham Holid Et Yitzchak.” Wouldn't it be enough just to say “ViEileh Toldot Avraham”? Rashi answers that after Hashem changed Avraham's name, Yitzchak was born to emphasize Avraham's new name. Additionally, Rashi says that people were saying that Avimelech was the biological father of Yitzchak because when Sarah was living with Avraham she was not pregnant, but when she was with Avimelech for one night, the next Pasuk says that Sarah was pregnant. Therefore, in order to prevent people from making this claim, Hashem made Yitzchak look exactly like Avraham.
Two questions can be asked on this statement of Rashi. First of all, why are the Rabbis worried about the people who spread false rumors? Also, if Avraham had children before Yitzchak, and Sarah was the one who could not have children, then why does the Pasuk focus on Avraham and not Sarah?
In answering these questions, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveichik explains that a parent has a responsibility of raising a child and to pass down one’s values to the child. This is what Avraham was trying to do. He was trying to start the spread of monotheism in place of polytheism, something which he was trying to pass down to his son. However, some people felt this was impossible, and therefore, they said that Avimelech fathered Yitzchak, meaning that Avraham would not be able to fulfill his task, and the ideas that Avimelech believed in, polytheism, would stay with Yitzchak. In response, the Torah emphasizes “Avraham Holid Et Yitzchak,” that Avraham shaped the personality of Yitzchak, and that Avraham's ideas were passed down to him.
-Adapted from a Shiur given by Rabbi Yosef Adler at TABC.
A Family Divided
by Ely Winkler
This week’s Parsha contains the famous story of Yaakov tricking his father into thinking that he was Esav in order to receive the Brachot of the firstborn. This story has led many people to numerous conclusions, including that the Jew is always dishonest. However, a careful study of the Pesukim sheds a different light on this topic. The story begins with Yitzchak asking Esav to go hunt for game to serve to him before he gives the Brachah. Rivkah overhears this conversation and begs Yaakov to go to Yitzchak as an imposter and receive the blessings first. Yaakov reluctantly agrees and allows his mother to prepare foods and to dress him up to go to his father posing as Esav. After verifying that this person bringing his food is indeed “Esav,” Yitzchak does bestow the sacred blessing on Yaakov right before the real Esav comes home from the hunt.
To understand Rivkah’s reasoning, we must first look at the original fight between Rivkah and Yitzchak. This fight was over two elements that were represented by Yaakov and Esav. Yitzchak saw the material power in Esav, while Rivkah saw the spiritual power in Yaakov. Both factors were necessary for the future of Bnai Yisrael. Yitzchak might have believed that the promise of Hashem was supposed to be carried on by both Esav and Yaakov as brotherly nations complementing each other. Therefore, he planned on giving Esav a blessing of material content, and one of spiritual content to Yaakov. Rivkah, on the other hand, knew from her brother and her own upbringing that such a division would fail. She recognized the curse that arises out of materialism without spirituality. Rivkah, unlike Yitzchak, saw Yaakov with both of these forces in his hands.
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that we must accept the words of our Talmudic sages to understand this story. We also must not try to overlook anything about the events recorded here. Rav Hirsch examines what Rivkah thought she would gain by sending Yaakov in as an imposter. She knew from the beginning that Yaakov would not be able to hide what he did for long. Esav was scheduled to return, and there was no way to keep Yaakov’s actions a secret. Accordingly, if this was a blessing that Hashem was to give through Yitzchak, how could Rivkah expect Hashem to bless someone receiving it by trickery? How could the blessing of Avraham, which was then passed to Yitzchak, move on to the next generation through an imposter? Also, if this blessing also had some kind of legal status to it, how could Rivkah expect the status to be binding? The Brachah would have been given under false pretences, and could be repealed!
Rav Hirsch explains that Rivkah had very different intentions. She really wanted to prove to Yitzchak that he was mistaken about who should be receiving this blessing. If Yaakov, a person unlearned in the ways of the world, could so easily trick Yitzchak to believe he was the material son Esav, than how easily could Esav, a cunning hunter, trick Yitzchak into thinking that he was the learned one! This explanation is proven by the words that Yitzchak himself says in his conversation with Esav, “...he shall even be blessed!” Yitzchak does not take away Yaakov’s blessing here; in fact, he validates it.
When Yitzchak was forced to come to terms with how short Esav fell in terms of spiritual insight, and when he found out that Esav had rejected his destiny by selling his birthright, he was convinced that Rivkah was right. He therefore validated Yaakov’s blessings, and recognized Yaakov as the sole spiritual inheritor of the blessings.
It is true that it is forbidden to disobey the Torah even at the request of a parent, but Yaakov saw in his mother’s demand an aspect of prophetic wisdom that convinces him to listen to her. There are times when the rules, if prophetically stated, can be pushed aside for a greater purpose. Yaakov’s actions were directly in conflict with his true essence that opposed all falsehood, cheating, and dishonesty.
As Jews, we need to be closely in touch with our heritage of honesty. We need to constantly be aware that we are the ones who make or break our forefather Yaakov’s image in the world. Our actions directly affect people’s acceptance or rejection of the lies that have been perpetuated about Yaakov. We must take this responsibility seriously, and we should be proud and overjoyed that we are fortunate enough to have it. Most of all, we should be sure never to cause a Chilul Hashem, a disgrace to Hashem’s name.
Halacha of the Week Yekum Purkan should be recited only when one is davening BiTzibur (Mishnah Berurah 101:19).
Food for Thought by Jerry M. Karp
1) Why was there no fighting between Yitzchak and the Plishtim about Rechovot?
2) Why did Esav not realize that his parents disapproved of his wives until they instructed Yaakov to find a wife in Padan Aram?
3) The Torah reveals to us in Bereshit 25:23 (and explicitly in 25:24) that Rivka was carrying twins. However, in 25:22, the Torah seems to assume that we know that Rivka will be giving birth to more than one child. In fact, Rivkah seems to know this herself – therefore, she asks God to explain what is happening. Why does the Torah not explicitly inform us that Rivka is carrying twins before Rivka asks God for an explanation?
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