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Toldos 5784 - Knowing Who We Are

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As Rivka is experiencing pregnancy for the first time, we find out about the challenges it brought her:


(כב) וַיִּתְרֹצֲצוּ הַבָּנִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ וַתֹּאמֶר אִם כֵּן לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת יְקֹוָק:

The children were agitating within her, and she said, if so, why am?  And she went to inquire of Hashem.


And once Rivka makes her inquiry, she receives the following information:


(כג) וַיֹּאמֶר יְקֹוָק לָהּ שְׁנֵי גיים גוֹיִם בְּבִטְנֵךְ וּשְׁנֵי לְאֻמִּים מִמֵּעַיִךְ יִפָּרֵדוּ וּלְאֹם מִלְאֹם יֶאֱמָץ וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר:


Hashem said to her: There are two nations in your womb, and two regimes from your womb will be separated. The might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.


The story is of course a challenging one to understand.


We are never told how Rivka responds to the information she is given, but she seems to have been comforted, or at least is able to move forward after hearing the answer.  And it raises the question:


1)   What was Rikva’s main concern that caused her to go find an answer?

2)   How does she go about finding an answer?

3)   How does the answer she is given quiet that concern?


The Ramban writes that Rivka’s concern was simple.  She felt so much discomfort, and she asked other women?  Is this normal?  They told her no.  And so, she said, “Lama Zeh Anochi?  Why I am unique and different?  What is happening to me?


And so, says the Ramban, she went to be DORESH HASHEM, meaning, she went to daven.


And in response, she received a prophecy:  Hashem told her, Rivka, don’t worry.  The reason you are feeling so much tumult is because there are TWO babies inside of you.  And this is NORMAL for someone carrying twins.


Yes, she was still concerned about what would happen once they were born, but knowing that she was experiencing something normal helped her relax.


Seforno writes that she was actually worried for her safety and the safety of the babies.  All of the movement made her terrified.  So, when she was told not just that they were two, but that they would be two natiosn who would fight with each other constantly, she was actually RELIEVED.


Why?  Because she was concerned that perhaps one of the babies wouldn’t make it.  When she’s told they will BOTH make it, but yes, there will be fighting between them and that’s what’s happening inside of you, she was relieved.


Rashi, though, offers us a midrashic explanation for the whole story:


Says Rashi, there wasn’t simply a lot of movement inside Rivka’ stomach.  Rather, when she would pass the yeshiva of Shem V’Ever she would feel tremendous movement.  And then, when she would pass a house of Avoda Zara, idolatry, she would feel tremendous movement as well.


And this was very confusing to her.  She said, I don’t understand.  What kind of child is this going to be?  What will be his spiritual legacy?


So, she went to see SHEM, the son of Noach, who the Medrash says was the Rosh Yeshiva of a Yeshiva called Yeshivas Shem V’Ever. 


And when she arrives, he tells her, “Rivka, don’t worry.  This isn’t ONE child. It’s two children.  One will love Avoda Zara.  The other will love monotheisim and continue in the ways of Avraham & Yitzchak.”


But the question still remains: HOW DID THIS CALM HER DOWN?


I understand that if she was worried about the PHYSICAL safety of her children that she was relieved when she found out it was two.  But if she was worried about the SPIRITUAL LEGACY, why does the answer she receives make her calm?


Rabbi Menachem Ben Zion Sacks was the founder of Ida Crown Hebrew Academy in Chicago, amongst his other significant communal work. He wrote a Sefer called Menachem Tzion in which he offers a powerful answer to this question:


What was Rivka’s REAL worry?  She thought she was carrying one child who would have an interest BOTH in Avoda Zara AND Avodas Hashem.  A child who would have trouble understanding who he was and what he believed in. A child would lack CONVICTION.


And so, she said, Im Kein Lama Ze Anochi.  If this is the case, how will he relate to the WORD ANOCHI, meaning, the first word of the Aseres HaDibros.  Anochi Hashem Elokecha.


If this child doesn’t understand who he is and believe in SOMETHING, then how will he be the next in line in our family, to carry on the legacy of Avraham & Yitzchak!?


And so, she receives an answer from HKBH: Don’t you worry Rivka. This isn’t ONE CHILD who can’t figure out who he wants to be.  You have TWO CHILDREN inside of you, and each one knows VERY WELL who he wants to be!


And with this answer, she is comforted. 




Says Rav Sacks, because she felt it would be better to have two children who know WHO THEY WANT TO BE, who have CONVICTION and belief in their IDENTITY – even if one of them would choose NOT to live as she had hoped - than to have one child who has no idea what he wants, a child who lacks CONVICTION and a sense of IDENTITY.


There were so many takeaways from the rally this week in Washington, D.C. 


-        The unity of close to 300,000 Jews standing together.  Usually when I go to some kind of event with a lot of Jewish people, I’ll see a whole bunch of people I know.  And yes, I saw a few at the rally.  But the sheer number of Jews that I had never seen in my life, from all over the country was amazing.


-        To see the incredible support from so many Americans who are not Jewish, including representative leadership from both parties in D.C.


But I think the feeling I felt most as I walked away from the rally, was a feeling of pride that the national Jewish community was able to coordinate such a powerful display of PRIDE IN OURSELVES. To be able to stand up and remind the world that we are not going anywhere, that we are strong and we are proud, and we are united.  To stand with 300,000 other Jews and sing acheinu, to say and sing chapters of Tehillim.


I had been feeling down as people were talking about being nervous to put signs supporting Israel on our lawns or to walk around wearing a yarmulka.  And I’m not denying the scared feelings people have been feeling.  They are real.  


And it was for that reason that it was incredible to see hundreds of thousands of Jews walking with our heads high, yarmulkas, women’s head coverings of all kinds, Israeli & American Flags, davening and singing together.  Who knows how many people put on TEFILLIN at that rally!  Ten thousand!?  Maybe more!?


So, if you ask me some of the most important takeaways from the rally?  One of them MUST BE a determination to strengthen our Jewish IDENTITY on the OUTSIDE, in public.


-        To be willing to put a sign on our lawn that says “I stand with Israel”.

-        There is a halachic debate about whether one can choose not to wear a kippah at work, and there are legitimate approaches on either side.  But even we choose not to wear a kippah at work, EVERYONE can wear a kippah ON THE WAY to work, while walking the streets of Teaneck.

-        And all of us can find more ways to identify publicly as Jewish, whether we are men or women, and we should do so.


Rikva Imeinu wasn’t as worried about whether all of her children would follow in her path, as much as she was worried that her children should have CONVICTION and PRIDE about WHO THEY WOULD BE!  May we all find the strength to live up to her wish for all of us, her children.  




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