Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Toldot
To dedicate this lesson

Face The Future

We face the worst enemies on the planet, generation after generation, & yet we are never knocked out. What is holding us up?!


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

There’s a great scene in the first Rocky movie. Rocky, the underdog, is being pounded & pummeled round after round by Apollo Creed, the world heavy-weight champ. But Rocky just won't give up. In amazement, the fight announcer asks, "What is keeping him up??!"

We might ask the same question about Am Yisrael. Always the underdog, we face the worst enemies on the planet, generation after generation, & yet we are never knocked out. What is holding us up?! Hold that thought for a moment.

In our Sedra, famous for the episode of the bechora – whereby Yakov wrests the birthright from his twin Esav – mother Rivka plays a crucial role. It is she who sets up the whole charade, she who convinces Yakov to fool his father Yitzchak & impersonate Esav in order to to win the blessing.

Asks Rav Pam: "Wasn’t Rivka taking an awful chance? Wasn’t she afraid that if her husband discovered the ruse being played upon him, he would be terribly angry at her, even possibly divorce her? What was she thinking?"

Rav Pam offers a novel answer. During the 22 years Yakov would spend away from his parents, he would undergo the most challenging, debilitating ordeals. He would battle with Lavan, his devious father-in-law. He would confront Esav. His daughter Dina would be kidnapped & raped, & his sons would attack Shechem. Then, when all this was over, the whole saga of Yosef’s abduction would send him deep into depression.

How did he survive all this anguish & agony?

What kept him going, says the Medrash, was the knowledge that his mother had risked everything – including her marriage – to see Yakov take his rightful place as leader. If he gave up, if he threw in the towel, he would let his mother down & negate her self-sacrifice & unstinting faith in him. And so he battled on, Rivka’s love sitting like a medallion on his chest.

Years later, ironically, it would be Yakov’s face that would keep his own son Yosef faithful to his sacred principles.

The pasuk says: "Vaye’ehav Yitzchak et Esav; V’Rivka Ohevet et Yakov;" Yitzchak loved Esav (past tense), while Rivka loves (present tense) Yakov! In other words, Rivka’s love for Yakov was eternal, ever-present, unending, the source of his strength.

And I ask you, are our own parents any different? Did they, too, not sacrifice for us in so many different ways, putting us always before their own wants & desires? How can we let them down? Close your eyes, picture their faces, & you, too, will be able to face any & all challenges.
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