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     In this week’s parshah, Toldos, we learn of both Yitzchak and Rivkah turning to HaShem with heartfelt prayer. Each praying on the other’s behalf. Yitzchok asking that Rivkah be the mother of his children, and Rivkah beseeching HaShem that Yitzchak be the father of her children. Together, they pierced the heavens and their prayers were answered. After twenty long years, Rivkah was finally expecting.

    Rivkah’s pregnancy was a difficult one. She experienced an inner tug of war. “Vayisrotzitzu habanim b’kirbah, and the children struggled within her.” (Bereishis 25:22) Rashi cites a Midrash that the word vayisrotzitzu, and they struggled, comes from the Hebrew word rotz, to run. Rivkah literally felt an internal sensation of running. When she would pass a house of Torah study, she felt a push towards that direction. And when she passed a place of idol worship, she felt a push towards that side. (It is interesting to note that studies have shown that not only are babies busy developing physical adaptations to function after birth, they are also eagerly sensing the world around them, starting from a very early gestational age.)

    Rivkah’s pain was so sharp, so intense, that it drove her to proclaim “lamah zeh anochi, why is this happening to me?” A loaded question.

    Rivkah knew she was to be a matriarch of the Jewish nation. To continue the legacy of Avraham and Sarah. That the future twelve tribes will be her progeny. To be the mother of a nation who will live by the words of the Ten Commandments. How worried she was when she felt that inner turmoil going on. How concerned she was, as to what kind of a leader will she be giving birth to, if already in the womb there is a struggle between two ways of life.

    Not wanting to worry either her husband, Yitzchak, or her father-in-law, Avraham, she went to the study hall of Shem (Rashi to Bereishis 25:22). There she received her answer. “Shnei goyim b’vitnaich, two nations are in your womb.”

    Rivkah now understood her inner pain. Twins. Each one going his own way. Twins that will become two nations, always quarrelling, even at times warring against each other. This news was at the same time both calming and painful.

    Rivkah felt a crisis in her life, and turned to Shem, a man of G-d. In her own quiet way, Rivkah leaves us with a powerful message. “Lidrosh es HaShem, to seek out the word of G-d.” To find a Divine explanation as to what was going.

    While this doesn’t negate seeking medical advice and intervention, Rivkah teaches us the importance of having a religious leader, a rabbinical mentor to turn to. As Pirkei Avos, Ethics of Our Fathers teaches, “Asei lecha rav, make for yourself a teacher”. (Pirkei Avos 1:6). Lecha, for yourself. Find a rav whom you can have trust and confidence in. Who will be there to answer your questions. Who will provide appropriate counsel, guidance and advice.

    Rivkah understood this, and sought a solution to her dilemma in a place of Torah study.

    “…Rivka, daughter of Besuel from Padan Aram, sister of Lavan the Aramean…” (Bereishis 25:20). While we were first introduced to Rivkah in last week’s parshah, this week’s parshah once again tells us of her family background. Rashi explains that it is repeated in order to praise Rivkah. “Though she was the daughter of an evil man, the sister of a sinful man, and was raised in a negative and decadent society, she was able to leave it all behind and change her life around.” She joined Yitzchak in living a life of morality, ethics and spirituality. 

    The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 17a) tells us the story of Elazar ben Durdia, who lived a corrupt, hedonistic lifestyle and associated with women of ill repute. At one point, one such woman shamed him, telling him that he was beyond hope, and should not even attempt to repent

    That was his wakeup call. He realized that he had to make change in his life. He went outside and called out, “Harim u’gvohos, mountains and hilltops, pray for me… shamayim v’aretz, heaven and earth, pray for me.” Elazar ben Durdia continued, calling out “chamah u’levanah, sun and moon, kochavim u’mazalot, stars and constellations, beseech mercy for me.”

    Failing to find anyone of these to assist him, Elazar ben Durdia finally comes to the realization that only he can help himself. He cries out “Ain hadavar tolui elah be, it all depends solely on me”. Enough of playing the blame game. Responding to his heartfelt cries, a Heavenly voice proclaimed Elazar ben Durdia to become a Rabbi Elazar “who has now been readied for the life of the World to Come”.

    How do we understand this story?

    Harim u’gvohos, mountains and hilltops. “Harim” can also be understand as “horim”, our parents. One may try and place blame for their failings on parents, saying that they came from a dysfunctional family, that no one was ever there for them, that they weren’t treated properly. It’s so easy to say “If only I would have been born into a different family, I wouldn’t have these problems”.

    While this all may be true, there comes a time in every person’s life when they must accept responsibility for their own actions.

    Shamayim v’aretz, heaven and earth. One’s society and culture. One’s surroundings. The community and neighborhood one grows up in. Here too, a person may say “I was a born on the wrong side of the tracks, it’s not fair”. Or one may claim that the influence of the community is so strong, that they couldn’t help themselves. Even in such a situation, one must own up to their own actions.

    Chamah u’levanah, sun and moon, kochavim u’mazalot, stars and constellations. The excuse of “I just don’t have any mazel. It’s not my fault. I was born on the wrong day, under an unlucky star. It’s beyond my reach.”

    Rivkah could have easily said, “I grew up in the house of Besuel. I can’t help myself. It was a dysfunctional family. Even my brother was bad news. Not only that, I lived in Aram, a society that was lacking in morals. I am what I am.”

    But Rivkah said none of this. She rose above it all. She said, “Eilich, I will go.” I will leave this all behind me and live a new life. How amazing is that. What a beautiful Torah message.