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    In the beginning of
    Parashat Toldot, the
    Torah tells us that
    Yitzhak married Rivka,
    “the daughter of
    Betuel…from Padan

    Aram, the brother of Lavan.”
    Rashi points out that we already know
    all this information. In the previous
    parashah, Parashat Hayeh-Sara, we read
    the entire story of how Rivka was chosen
    to be Yitzhak’s wife, and this story
    included Rivka’s background – her
    family, her hometown, and so
    on. Seemingly, there is no reason for the
    Torah to repeat all this information now.
    Rashi explains that the Torah told us
    about Rivka’s background again in order
    to praise her, to draw our attention to her
    greatness. She was the daughter of a
    wicked person and the brother of a
    wicked person, and she was raised among
    wicked people in Padam Aram. And,
    despite all this, she emerged as a righteous
    woman. This was Rivka’s greatness.
    It is very significant that this is how the
    Torah compliments and praises Rivka –

    by telling us what she needed to reject,
    what she needed to oppose. The greatest
    praise for Rivka is not her hesed, how
    generous and giving she was, but rather
    the fact that she turned her back on the
    beliefs and behaviors of her family and
    her hometown.
    The primary way in which we mold
    ourselves into the people we want to
    become is by saying “no.” Setting limits,
    not allowing things into our lives, not
    allowing ourselves to do or say certain
    things, does more to define who we are
    than the things that we do.
    We become charitable not when we
    have money to spare and we donate it,
    but when we have to sacrifice something
    in order to donate charity. We become
    devoted parents not when we spend our
    free time with our children, but when we
    say “no” to things that we want to do for
    their sake. We become devoted students
    of Torah not when we open a book during
    our free time, but when we say “no” to
    things that we want to do for the sake of
    learning Torah. We become true ba’aleh
    hesed not by showing up to a bake sale,

    but by saying “no” to
    things we want to do for
    the sake of helping other
    This is true of our families
    and homes, as well. We
    define our home not by
    having Torah books on the
    bookshelf, and not even by
    keeping Shabbat – but by
    saying “no,” by putting
    limits. We define our home
    as a Torah home by insisting that there
    are things that we do not bring into the
    home; there are words that we do not
    speak; there are foods that we do not eat;
    there are kinds of clothing that we do not
    wear; and there are things that we do not
    Somebody I know very well was once
    given the opportunity to earn a
    considerably higher among of money, but
    this would involve going against his
    principles. He turned down the offer.
    He later told me, “You have no idea
    what a powerful experience this was – to
    say ‘no’ to money because of my

    principles. I took a stand, and by doing
    so, I know exactly who I am. By
    establishing that I cannot be asked to do
    anything, that I have limits, I made a
    powerful statement about who I am. And
    this is far more valuable than some extra
    money in my bank account.”
    Rivka was a wonderful ba’alat hesed –
    but her real strength lay in her ability to
    say “no,” to say that she was not going to
    follow the example of the people she
    grew up with. Saying “no” can be very
    difficult, but this is what we need to do in
    order to mold ourselves into the great
    people that we have been brought into the
    world to become.