Genesis 25:19 - 28:9
Three verses into our parasha Rebecca utters the very first prayer in the Torah. Pregnant with the twins, Jacob and Esau who are fighting in her womb, Rebecca is in so much pain that she calls out: "If this be so, why me?" (Gen. 25:22). I suppose it should be no surprise that 'why me?' is the very first prayer! What really strikes me, however, is that the twins are fighting before even being born. The classic Rabbinic commentator Rashi offered a seemingly strange explanation:
"When [Rebecca] would pass the doors of the Torah academies of Shem and Ever, Jacob struggled to come out, while when she passed the doors of idolatry, Esau struggled to come out."
Let's forget, for a moment, that there were no Torah academies in Rebecca's day because the Torah had not yet been written. Rashi is sharing remarkable Torah with this rather odd statement. The sages teach that all people have two primal urges: the Yezter HaTov (the inclination towards good) and the Yezter haRah (the inclination towards evil). Perhaps Rashi is proposing that the real struggle within Rebecca was not physical, but spiritual. The part of her that would become Jacob struggled to get out to embrace Torah. The part of her that would become Esau struggled to do the opposite. We are each us, regardless of where in are in life, pregnant with possibilities, and with competing urges that struggle for dominance within us. However, unlike with physical pregnancy, we actually have a choice about which ones to bring more fully to life.
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras