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Parashat Toldot

November 17, 2023
6 Kislev 5784
Genesis 25:19 - 28:9

Dear Friends,

This week’s Torah portion features Isaac and Rebecca, the one pair in our ancestral line that is clearly a couple who deeply care for one another. This week’s Parshah, Toldot, generations (Genesis 25:19 -28:9), tells the story of this pair and their twins Jacob and Esau. It is a rich story with many twists and turns. However, given where so many of us are at this moment, I invite you to join me in looking at one particular exchange that occurs in the parsha. 

As is so often the case in our story Rebecca is having difficulty getting pregnant. So, Isaac prays to God on her behalf, and she becomes pregnant with twins. It’s a difficult pregnancy, as the children struggle in the womb. But, unlike any other individual when faced with difficulty, she goes to the source for guidance. She does not engage in prayer; rather she asks a question. “She said: If so, why do I exist? And she went to inquire of the Eternal. And the Eternal answered her… “(Genesis 25:22-23)

Please note that she is the first person in the Biblical narrative to ask a question of God, as opposed to God seeking out a human to communicate with. We see this with all who have come before from Adam and Eve to Noah, and even to Abraham who only argues with the Divine about Sodom and Gomorrah after he has been given an opening.

Rebecca wants to know her purpose -- the meaning of the distress she is experiencing carrying two babies. And God answers her, giving her a glimpse of the future -- how the older will serve the younger and that they will be two great nations. One could argue that it is because of this revelation that she later actively helps bring the prophecy to fruition.

We are currently in a world that has changed drastically fore our eyes. We are all off balance, much like the pregnant Rebecca. Even if we have the courage to ask the Divine at this moment, what kind of response do we expect?  Where are we? We are all experiencing the world differently right now. And it is perfectly reasonable for us to ask what is our purpose at this moment. Having just spent three days at a retreat where I listened to and studied with my teachers, my strongest suggestion is to be gentle, both with yourself and with others. 

We just welcomed the month of Kislev, the month in which we celebrate the lights of Chanukah. Let us do what we can to bring in the light of caring for ourselves and for others especially during this time. May we weather the storm, much like Rebecca did.

 Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Wed, May 22 2024 14 Iyyar 5784