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Weekly D'rash Toldot

Our Torah portion this week tells the story of Jacob and Esau, in which Jacob buys the birthright from Esau. Later, Rebekah tells Jacob to pretend to be his brother and approach his father to receive the firstborn blessing that should naturally go to Esau. We talk much about Jacob and his actions in these chapters. As many of you know, when we study the text we find that Jacob is never chastised by God for his actions.

In this week's d’rash, we want to discuss Rebekah who is another key person in this story. Rebekah is the one who tells Jacob to deceive Isaac into giving Jacob the birthright blessing (Gen 27:1–13). The first time we meet Rebekah is when she meets the servant of Abraham by the well. She is kind, hardworking, and described in very positive ways. After she marries Isaac, we read about her pregnancy. She is going to have twins, but she is having a difficult time. She cries out to God and receives some very important information. She learns that "Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger" (Gen 25:23).

From the very beginning, Rebekah knows a secret. She knows that the plan of God is that Jacob will take the role of the firstborn. She knows that Jacob will receive the firstborn's inheritance and the covenantal blessing. We learn from the text that Jacob is a blameless man and he values the "birthright." We also learn that Esau despises the birthright and he marries a Hittite woman which brings grief to Isaac and Rebekah. Now that Isaac is old and ready to die, he is ready to bless his firstborn with the birthright that Esau has already "sold" to Jacob.

Rebekah knows that God had told her that it is Jacob who would be the son of blessing and promise. Evidently, Isaac is not aware of this information. Rebekah does something that appears to be out of character. She tells Jacob to deceive Isaac so that Jacob receives the blessing. In doing so, Rebekah appears to be bringing to pass what had been promised when the boys were in the womb. That is, that the older would serve the younger.

In the text, it seems that Rebekah is in a very difficult position. Should she do nothing and let Isaac give the blessing to Esau? She seems desperate. She tells Jacob that she would take the blame for whatever happens. Very interestingly, there is never any blame on either Rebekah or Jacob. There is no curse. Rebekah is never chastised. At the end of her life, she is buried in the cave along with the rest of the patriarchs.

I think that most of us can relate to Rebekah in this situation. We can be faced with decisions in life in which there do not seem to be clearcut easy choices. It is easy for us to be "armchair patriarchs" and say that the end does not justify the means. Remember Rahab? She also was faced with a difficult decision. Should she have told the Canaanite authorities about the scouts? She is commended for deceiving them and sending the scouts out secretly! Sometimes, what happens on the surface does not reflect what is happening in the heart. That is why it is vitally important to be discerning in our decisionmaking and our overall walk with the Lord. Like Rebekah, sometimes we must make a choice and be willing to face the consequences of our actions. I cannot say whether Rebekah was right or wrong—but what I can say from the text is that she did her best.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Howard

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