This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 24 No. 6
Yitzchok Yaakov ben Betzalel z"l
whose Yohrzeit is 23 Cheshvan
Rifkah Imeinu (Part 2)
This week's Sedra opens with the birth of Ya'akov and Eisav and describes how Yitzchak and Rifkah, after 20 years of childlessness, prayed for this conception to take place. Although they both prayed simultaneously, it was Yitzchak's prayer that G-d answered first. Rashi gives the reason for this - because the prayer of a tzadik who is the son/daughter of a tzadik carries more weight in Heaven than those of a tzadik, the son/daughter of a rosho. Whereas Rifkah was the daughter of Be'suel ho'Rosho, Yitzchak was of course, the son of Avraham Avinu.
The very fact that Chazal found it necessary to explain why G-d answered Yitzchak's prayer before that of Rifkah indicates that Rifkah's righteousness, as well as her prayers, was otherwise on a par with that of Yitzchak. This in itself, is remarkable, considering, a). her upbringing and b). the fact that tefillah was Yitzchak's forte.
That Rifkah had Ru'ach ha'Kodesh is evident from her knowledge of what Yitzchak had told Eisav, when he instructed him to hunt him a deer (see Targum Yonoson 27:5). Rashi too, at the end of the Sedra (27:42) refers to Rifkah's Ru'ach ha'Kodesh, when he explains her knowledge of Eisav's plan to kill Ya'akov at the earliest opportunity. And the Ramban (25:23) points out how, when she suffered exceptional pregnancy pains, she went to pray for Divine instruction, and that G-d answered her directly.
It is natural for a mother to develop a special attachment towards her first-born, yet Rifkah, in spite of the fact that her husband Yitzchak did indeed favour his first-born, Eisav, preferred Ya'akov.
Evidently she had a mind of her own (refer to last week's article), a mind that obeyed the call of reason and truth. And evidently, these meant so much to her that they overrode the most basic maternal instincts.
Rifkah was also an outstanding diplomat. For whatever reason she saw fit to withhold from Yitzchak the truth about Eisav his son, and whatever she did that might lead to this "secret" leaking out she did cleverly and diplomatically. See how she discreetly suggested to Yitzchak to send Ya'akov to Choron to her brother Lavan, so that he might find a wife there because, she explained innocently, she was afraid that he might marry a "Chitti" woman from among the Cana'ani tribes. Whereas she had only just divulged to Ya'akov himself her real reason for wanting to send him away - because she had informed him, Eisav was planning to kill him. When the time was ripe, she reassured him, she would send for him and bring him back home.
More than three decades would pass before the time became ripe to recall Ya'akov. But as soon as that moment arrived, Rifkah, a woman of integrity and of action, remained true to her word. She immediately sent Devorah up to Choron to bring him home (see Rashi Bereishis 35:8).
Rifkah Imeinu was truly a remarkable woman, with superb diverse characteristics, which blended to mould her into one of the finest and most righteous women in the world. That is why she is counted as one of the four imohos.
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Eisav Responsible for
his Grandfather's Death
"And Eisav said to Ya'akov 'Feed me some of this red broth …' " (25:30).
Rashi explains that Avraham had just died and that Ya'akov was cooking a lentil broth to serve his father the first meal of a mourner.
And he explains that Eisav had committed five major sins on that day, and that Avraham died so that he should not see his grandson going off the path, in fulfilment of G-d's promise that he would live to a good old age. Consequently, his son Yishmael did Teshuvah and Eisav did not sin during his lifetime.
By the same token, one of the reasons that Yitzchak became blind was in order to avoid seeing his son going off the path. Furthermore, the Medrash tells us, as he emerged from his mother's womb, he struck her, making her infertile, to prevent her from having any more children (refer also to the last paragraph in the later Pearl 'The Five-Star Sinner'). This was Eisav, who spent his life creating havoc to all and sundry, even to those who were the closest to him.
A Shortened Life
"And this is the life-span of Avraham that he lived" (25:7)
Based on the fact that Avraham died five years early, the G'ro explains the seemingly superfluous words "which he lived" - which we do not find in any of the other numerous deaths recorded in the current Parshiyos - except for one, as follows. Really, Avraham was destined to live until the age of a hundred and eighty (like his son Yitzchak), but these are the years that he actually lived.
The other exception is that of Adam - at the end of Parshas Bereishis, where the Torah uses the same term. There too, the G'ro explains, it is because (after he sinned) Adam was destined to live to the age of a thousand, but, as the Medrash informs us, he donated seventy years to David, who was destined to be born dead. Consequently the Torah writes - "This is the life-span of Adam that he lived".
The Five-Star Sinner
" … Eisav came from the field and he was tired" (25:29).
The Gemara in Bava Basra (16b) explains that Eisav committed five major sins on that day - 1. He committed adultery with a betrothed girl; 2. He murdered Nimrod; 3. He denied Techiyas ha'Meisim; 4. He denied G-d's existence; and 5. He despised the (Divine service of the) birthright.
Notwithstanding what we wrote earlier, Eisav's career began already much earlier, when he was still a young boy. However, as Rashi points out just two Pesukim earlier, when little boys are naughty, their bad deeds are easily overlooked and seen as mere pranks, and it is only after they grow up that their true characters are displayed.
In fact, Rashi explains, the difference between Ya'akov and Eisav was already discernable when they turned thirteen, two years earlier, but it was only now, when they were both fifteen, that Eisav threw off all shackles and sinned openly for all to see. That is why Avraham had to die on that day, as we explained earlier. It is easy to imagine the chagrin he would have felt had he seen his grandson in his true colours.
The Chofetz Chayim, commenting on Ya'akov holding on to Eisav's heel as they were being born, explains that, such a Rasha was Eisav, that he threatened to trample his brother to death. That is why the latter had to grab hold of his heel to save his life.
Remembering the day of Death
"Behold I am going to die, so of what use is the birthright to me?" (25:32).
Amazing, says the Chofetz Chayim; the Gemara in B'rachos (5a) presents one of the methods to prevent oneself from sinning as to 'remember' the day of death.
Most people, it appears, 'remember' the day of death, to refrain from sinning; Eisav did so in order to sin (by rejecting the Bechorah)!
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