Weekly Shiur – Parshat Toldot – Rav Levitz
Our Parsha opens with the difficulty of Yitzchak and Rivka to bear children. After twenty years of marriage Rivka becomes pregnant for the first time. However, the welcomed sense of relief is short lived and replaced by sentiments of frustration and doubt. Unusual developments cause Rivka to seek Divine counsel and intervention, as we learn in the Passuk:
“And the children ran\ crushed each other\ inside her and she said,” If this is so, why is this (happening to) me? So she went to seek out Hashem.
Many issues arise concerning this Passuk. First, it is unusual that the Torah divulges to us, the reader, that there are two boys struggling inside, long before Rivka hears that she is carrying twins (see Eben Ezra). Additionally, what was so concerning regarding Rivka’s pregnancy? A woman in her first pregnancy is prone to be worried about early contractions or heavy kicking! It is apparent that there was something unnatural about the excess movement of the child. Rivka perceived this “running” or “crushing” to be a sign from above.
Since the words she spoke were extremely vague “why is this happening to me”, what exactly was her concern? What made her seek out G-d to relieve her worries? The mepharshim on this phrase express different approaches:
- Rivka was calling out from pain and suffering.Whydid I need to get pregnant in the first place? Is this what I was praying for? (Rashi) Why did my husband pray so hard that I should become pregnant? (Sephorno)
- Overwhelmed with grief at the potential loss of her baby, she calls out, “Why isthis (pointing with a finger) happening, that I should get pregnant for nothing? (Or HaChayim HaKadosh)
- When told by her neighbors that this occurrence was not normal Rivka asks: Why is this (my pregnancy being so different from yours’) happening tome? (Eben Ezra)
- Rivka was so confused by the unusual circumstance of her pregnancy that she became despondent: If this is so, why shouldIcontinue to exist. (Ramban)
It seems that each of the commentaries emphasized a different word when reading the phrase “why is this happening to me”.
The Slonimer Rebbe in his illustrious work Netivot Shalom adds insight to Rivka’s search. He introduces his remarks with the Or Hachayim’s question on Rashi: Why would a Tzaddeket complain due to pain? And how does G-d’s answer: “You have two nations…” relieve the pain and suffering?
The Netivot explains: “children” are a hint to “thoughts”. Rivka contained two types of thoughts that “ran around” inside her: Holy thoughts and impure thoughts. Rashi states that Yakov tried to run to the Beit Midrash and Eisav tried to run to the house of idolatry. This shows the state of moral confusion that Rivka was in. So she proclaimed, “Therefore, why is this (happening to) me”? If my son (singular) is a mixture of good and evil, then I am not doing my job as Matriarch. I am not promoting a Tikkun for the sin of Adam which brought about a total confusion and blending of good and evil.
G-d answered Rivka: You need not worry. There are two sons in your womb, one who is entirely righteous and one who is completely evil. Your work in separating the two forces is still effective.
The Netivot continues: These two “nations” are symbolic of the two “Yetzarim”, the Yezer Hatov and the Yetzer Hara. G-d created man to be in a constant struggle. The good news however appears at the end of the prophecy received by Rivka: “And the eldest shall serve the youngest”. The Rav (elder son) is the Yetzer Hara in that it appears first in life, from the minute we are born. (לפתח חטאת רובץ), however the Yetzer Hatov enters after the Bar Mitzvah. That is why the Yetzer Hatov is called the younger sibling.
Rav Hayim Vital, student of the Ar”i HaKadosh of Tzefat, once explained the first Mishna in Pesachim along these same lines. “At the onset of the 14th day we search for chometz by the light of the candle”. Chometz is a symbol of the Yetzer HaRa, At the onset of the 14th (year) we must begin our search of our Chometz by the “light” of a candle (Yetzer Hatov). The ultimate goal therefore is that the elder should serve the younger, evil should be overpowered by good. An additional hint to this idea is found in the fact that Yakov used his “hand” to grab the heel of Eisav. יד in Gematriya is 14, the Bar Mitzvah being the beginning of the 14th year.
May the study of the lives of our Avot and Imahot always be an inspiration to furthering the work of separating Kedusha from Tumah, and give us the strength to fulfill “the elder shall serve the younger”.