Rebecca’s Greatness

This week’s parsha, toldot, focuses on the continuance of the Abrahamic line through the birth of Jacob and Esau. After a long period of childlessness, Isaac and Rebecca entreat God, and He grants Rebecca the capability to conceive. Rebecca endures a difficult pregnancy as, according to God, “Two nations are in [her] womb.” While Jacob and Esau grow up and their personalities diverge, the Torah notes Isaac adored Esau for his hunting prowess and Rebecca loved Jacob for his “wholesome” character. Soon, Abraham dies, and Jacob secures the birthright from Esau in exchange for the mourner’s meal that Jacob prepared for Isaac. A famine forces Isaac to move to Gerar, and a dispute with the inhabitants regarding the wells ensues. Blind and in old age, Isaac desires to bestow Esau with the blessing of the firstborn. However, Rebecca, knowing Esau’s true sinful nature, devises a scheme for Jacob to receive the birthright. Jacob, disguised as Esau, obtains the blessing from Isaac and flees once Esau discovers that Jacob stole his birthright.

While discussing these events, it is critical that one not overlook Rebecca’s essential role in this parsha. Similar to Sarah before her, Rebecca is barren, and God grants her the ability to conceive after many years of sterility. This serves as one of the many examples of Rebecca’s righteousness and demonstrates her worthiness of a miracle from God. Unlike Isaac, who is blind to Esau’s immoral behavior, Rebecca, with clarity and motherly intuition, is able to view her children for whom they truly are. She recognizes that Jacob’s kind nature and affinity for learning renders him the suitable and necessary candidate for the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael.

Realizing that Isaac intends to bless Esau with the birthright, Rebecca formulates a plan for Jacob to deceive Isaac and attain the blessing. As Esau hunts to prepare his father’s favorite meal, she commands Jacob to act as Esau so Isaac will bless him before his death. Rebecca prepares Isaac’s meal and clothes Jacob with Esau’s garments. Additionally, to replicate the hairy skin of Esau, Rebecca covers Jacob’s neck and arms with the skin of goats. Discovering that Isaac blessed Jacob and granted him mastery over his kinsmen, Esau vows to kill Jacob after Isaac’s death. Rebecca, after being told from God the malicious intent of Esau, urges Jacob to flee from Esau to her relatives in Charan.

Ultimately, just like Rebecca, we must recognize the situation and have the courage and desire to act. Her complete faith in Hashem and in the prophecy that “the elder shall serve the younger” assured the timid Jacob that his intent was morally righteous. However, we must not sit back and believe that God will take care of us. God made Isaac blind, but Rebecca still had to encourage Jacob to play his role. Equally, God may devise a plan for us, but we are the ones who must actively carry it out. By asking ourselves the question “What would God do or want us to do?” we are able to overcome almost any situation that we will encounter.

Daniel Gross is a senior at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.

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