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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Toldot

BACK TO THE FUTURE, PART I

Stewart WeissCheshvan 29 5777
72
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Have you ever fantasized about being able to travel back into the past to somehow change history, to correct some personal or national event and make it all come out better?

Well, that is almost exactly what we experience in this week’s Sedra – except in the reverse. In a very unusual scene, Rivka is told, by Divine prophecy (either via Shem and Ever, or directly by Hashem) that in the future, her son Esav will turn out to be a rather unsavory character, one clearly undeserving of carrying on the mantle of Jewish leadership when Yitzchak will be gone.

The pasuk says: "Vayitrotz’tzu habanim b’kirba." The strange word "Vayitrotz’tzu" is usually translated as "(the boys) ran (inside her). This leads to the famous Medrash that says Rivka felt a kick both when she passed a house of study as well as a house of idolatry, indicating diametrically-opposed paths for her twins. But I suggest that the word also can be linked to the root "teretz," which can mean to "answer," or solve a problem. Rivka is made aware of a major problem, and she sets out to solve it.

Coming from a home where cunning and conning others was rather common, she – much more than her pure and sheltered husband Yitzchak – can see right through Esav and his holier-than-thou machinations. (In fact, this may be the "blindness" that the Torah says afflicts Yitzchak; his
inability to see Esav for what he really was.)

And so Rivka devises this rather clever but controversial plan to have "good son" Yakov dress up as Esav and secure the birthright blessing for his own. We all know what happens next; Yakov does indeed receive the preeminent bracha, and will lead Am Yisrael into the future.

But alas, it’s not always nice to tamper with Mother Future. While Yakov will go on to wear Yitzchak’s mantle, Esav will turn into an eternal enemy to plague our people throughout history, to this very day. As Chazal say, "It is Halacha, unalterable – Esav hates Yakov." While Rivka
may have done a noble thing, there will be a heavy price to pay for all eternity, until Moshiach-time.

At the end of the story, the pasuk (28:5) inexplicably identifies Rivka as "the mother of Yakov and Esav." But don’t we surely know that already?! Even Rashi is forced to comment, "I don’t know what this is teaching us!" But I suggest we are being told that, when all is said and done, Rivka still loves her twin boys. While she did what she felt she had to do, for the good of the nation and posterity, she wishes that it could all have been solved amicably without subterfuge, and that reconciliation, rather than rivalry, would reign.

Maybe, in the future…..
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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