10 Nov A TUMULTUOUS PREGNANCY
Rivkah Imeinu had a very dramatic pregnancy. The posuk informs us, “Va’yisrotz’tzu habonim b’kirbah – And the twins ran (and wrestled) inside of her.” The Medrash elaborates, as cited by Rashi, that whenever she passed a Beis HaMedrash / study hall, Yaakov attempted to run out. When she passed by a place of idolatry, Esav lurched forward. This behavior screams for interpretation. We can readily understand why the wicked-based Esav wanted to indulge in forbidden idolatry. But why would Yaakov want to leave the environment of the womb which we know, as taught to us in the Gemora in Masechtas Niddah, is a place where a celestial angel teaches the fetus all of the Torah. Why would he want to leave this cocoon to go out to a Beis HaMedrash to study with mere human beings?
The Chasam Sofer, zt”l, zy”a, and a host of others give the explanation that even if you could learn from an angel, it’s not worth it, if you are exposed to the toxicity of a bad neighbor. Thus, Yaakov Avinu wanted to escape as soon as possible from being in such close quarters with the wicked Esav. This lesson highlights the danger of being influenced by one’s environment and reminds us of the importance to choose our friends and associates wisely.
Another answer is given. Yaakov wanted to begin as soon as possible the mission of ameilus baTorah / toiling in learning. It is for this reason that consciously we forget the learning that we are taught by the malach, since we don’t work for it in the slightest. This is also the explanation they give for why we don’t stand up when a pregnant woman enters the room. For, although the fetus is studying Torah, since there is absolutely no work involved, we don’t stand up for such study.
Yet others explain that Yaakov wanted to begin “Lilmod al menas laasos – To learn in order to do,” and also “Lilmod al menas l’lameid – To learn in order to teach.” Both of these would only be possible once he would exit from the womb. Indeed, in the verse “Adam l’amal yulad – Man was created to toil,” the word l’amal is an acronym for lilmod al menas l’lameid and lilmod al menas laasos.
There is, however, another interesting angle to these pre-natal events. We can readily understand that Esav’s yeitzer hara, which caused him to want to exit prematurely to go to a church, was not concerned about the fact that if he would leave the womb early he would die. That is consistent with the behavior of the yeitzer hara, who tempts people to indulge in behaviors such as smoking and overeating, drinking and the like although these pleasures can be lethal for the individual. But, why would Yaakov Avinu want to leave to a Beis HaMedrash when such an exit could cause his early demise? One suggestion is that this was also the wiles of the yeitzer hara but sometimes he comes in disguise of a mitzvah prompting young Yaakov to want to leave early in order to study Torah. This is a common practice of the yeitzer hara: To get people to sin thinking that they’re doing a mitzvah. As, for example, justifying embarrassing someone publically because you think it is a mitzvah to do so.
But, there is also another question. The Gemora teaches us that the great Rebbe agreed with Antoninus, that the yeitzer hara only comes into a person when he exits the womb. Therefore, it begs the question: Why would Esav want to leave to church while he’s in the womb? Therefore, I’d like to propose a novel interpretation to this entire drama. These pre-natal pains of Rivka were not actual intentions of Yaakov and Esav but rather just to give her the experience which would cause her to go to Sheim and ask him what the message was. This would clue her in that the older one would serve the younger and give her the advance knowledge to orchestrate Yaakov’s stealing of the blessings from Esav many years later.
May it be the will of Hashem that we recognize that the yeitzer hara is our true enemy and does not wish us well and that we should be able to avoid his machinations throughout our lives. In that merit may Hashem bless us with long life, good health and everything wonderful.