Why Me? by Rabbi Mark Smilowitz


Times of struggle and hardship often cause people to reflect on who they are and what their purpose in life is.  Our Matriarch Rivka goes through such a questioning period during her difficult pregnancy with the tumultuous twins.  The fighting in her womb leads Rivka to ask, in the language of the Chumash, אם כן למה זה אנכי, “If so, why is this me?”  What precisely is Rivka asking?

According to Rabbi Dovid Zvi Kanatopsky, in his book Night of Watching, Rivka is troubled by her role in the drama of Jewish history.  Clearly, her descendants will be involved in a life and death struggle, symbolized by the struggle between Esav and Yaakov in the womb.  Rivka asks, “Why, then, have I, Rivka, been chosen to mother these children?  What is unique about me that I have been snatched away from a serene life and thrust into a life of conflict and trouble?”

Hashem’s response to Rivka seems at first to avoid the question.  “There are two nations in your belly, and two peoples shall separate themselves from your womb….”  Is there any information in Hashem’s response that answers Rivka’s question, “Why me?”  It seems not.

Rabbi Kanatopsky explains that Hashem is telling Rivka that she is the ideal choice to mother the Jewish People precisely because the Jewish People will be involved in a struggle with Esav.  We must remember who Rivka is: she is the sister of Lavan, the infamous trickster and con man.  Rivka grew up in a house where she was confronted with evil every day, yet she remained honest and pure.  Because she knows what it means to struggle against evil and to emerge victorious, Rivka is a perfect choice to be the mother of Yaakov and Esav.  Rivka is capable of teaching Yaakov how to avoid the pitfalls set by his brother and remain true and pure in the process.

We all should remember that Hashem gives people challenges that they and only they are suited to meet.  Any hardship Hashem may deal to us is calculated and molded to our own strengths so that we may fulfill our own individual destinies.

Jacob the Liar (and other irregularities) by David Gertler

The Wine of Redemption by Ilan Tokayer