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Parshat Toldot

By: Rabbi Dr Zvi Ron

Parshat Toldot
Rav Zvi Ron

When the Torah relates the story of the birth of Yaakov and Esav, an unusual word is used: “ve-hineh tomim be-vitnah,” – "then behold: there were twins in her womb!" (25:24). The Rashbam comments that the word hineh implies some element of surprise, that something is taking place not in accordance with what was previously assumed. But who was surprised when the twins were born? Rivka had been informed by Hashem that she was pregnant with twins; she knew what to expect! Seforno comments that the midwives also knew that this was a twin pregnancy.

Could it be that Rivka had never told Yitzchak that she was pregnant with twins, and that it was he who was surprised? This may not seem so strange when we consider that Rivka did not share with Yitzchak the prophecy that was given her from Hashem that "the elder shall serve the younger" (25:23). If Yitzchak had known this prophecy, it would have been unnecessary for Rivka to resort to subterfuge to make sure that Yaakov received the appropriate blessing.

Our Sages note that there were multiple instances where Rivka did not share information with Yitzchak. The Maharal, in his commentary Gur Aryeh, writes that Rivka did not tell Yitzchak of the hardships that she felt during her difficult pregnancy. Instead, "she went to inquire of Hashem" (25:22). The Maharal explains that Rivka was embarrassed to tell her husband of her trouble. She did not want Yitzchak to think that this was happening to her as a punishment for her idolatrous past during her years growing up in the house of Betuel.

The Netziv, in his commentary Ha’amek Davar, writes that from the moment Rivka first saw Yitzchak, a saintly figure praying in the field, she felt awe and fear. The Netziv explains that Rivka was filled with feelings of inadequacy; she did not feel worthy of marrying such a holy man. Out of shame, she covered herself with a scarf, and out of fear, she fell off her camel. The Netziv states that because of these feelings, Rivka was unable to communicate with Yitzchak and express to him whom she felt really deserved his holy blessing, and instead had to resort to subterfuge.

In fact, the only time the Torah quotes a direct statement made by Rivka to Yitzchak is when she makes up a reason for Yaakov to run away to Padan Aram (27:46). She claims that Yaakov should go away in order that he should not marry a local girl. The Rashbam explains that Rivka did not want to reveal to her husband the truth, that Yaakov's life was in danger. Rav Sorotzkin, in his commentary, Oznayyim LaTorah, explains that this is hinted in the small letter “kuf” in the word "katzti" with which Rivka begins her statement to to Yitzchak. From all this, we see the great difficulty that Rivka had in speaking to Yitzchak. This all stemmed from her feeling that she was not worthy to be the wife of a great tzaddik.

Yitzchak tried to do everything right, but Rivka’s feelings persisted. Though from an intellectual perspective, we can say that Rivka should not have felt this way, emotions do not always follow the rules of logic. The story of Yitzchak and Rivka demonstrates to us the complex impressions and emotions that are present in relationships between people with different levels of observance. Sometimes there is not much we can do, and even when we try our best to be sensitive, people react in unexpected ways. Still, we have to do our best. We should always have in mind to consider the feelings of others and their particular concerns so that everyone will feel that the world of Torah Judaism is open and welcoming.




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