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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Toldot


Rabbi Stewart WeissCheshvan 26 5778
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Yakov, by all accounts, is the greatest of the Avot, the Patriarchs. This is not to say that Avraham & Yitzchak were NOT great; certainly, they were unique giants of Jewish history who shaped our nation forever. But Yakov surpasses them both, as evidenced by the fact that the greatest amount of text is used by the Torah to tell his story, which encompasses no less than 7 different Parshiyot.

Yakov also undergoes every possible trial & test, even more than Avraham endures: He has traumatic issues with his brother, his wives (now, that alone is an issue!), his conniving father-in-law, his bickering children. His life is threatened more than once; he deals with famine, (civil) war & poverty as well as the seeming loss of his most beloved child. Yet he manages to meet all these challenges & emerge as the true "father of our nation," as we will eternally be known collectively as "Bnei Yisrael."

Yakov is a scholar ("Ish Ohalim"), a dreamer (the Ladder); a romantic (he kisses Rachel at first sight) & a fighter (the wrestling match with the angel). He is a kind of EveryMan, the epitome of the "Renaissance Man," long before the actual Renaissance came into being.

Where does Yakov get the strength to handle everything which Life throws at him? What is his inspiration? Rav Pam suggests that his fortitude derives from Rivka, his mother. Remember that it is Rivka, in our Sedra, who knows intuitively that Yakov, & not Esav, is qualified to accept the future mantle of leadership in the family, & she is prepared to do all it takes – including risking her relationship with husband Yitzchak – in order to promote Yakov’s candidacy. Rivka is brave, & clever, & totally devoted to Yakov. She saves his life by wisely sending him away to live with her brother, preventing him from being harmed by Esav.

Rivka’s name can be read as "Ravaka," the single," or lonely one. Separated from Yakov, alienated from Esav & perhaps from Yitzchak, she’ll die a lonely death – only the grave-digger will be present at her funeral, say Chazal.

Yakov must surely carry all this within him, believing at each crucial juncture in his life that he must validate his mother’s faith in him; he must honor her by being the great leader she was so convinced he could be. This is an awesome responsibility, but that is exactly what inspires a person to live up to his or her potential.

The Torah hints at the unbreakable Yakov-Rivka bond when it says: "Vaye’ehav Yitzchak et Esav; V’Rivka Ohevet et Yakov." Yitzchak LOVED Esav; but Rivka LOVES Yakov. A mother’s love is not bound by time; we carry it with us for as long as we live, it is an indelible part of our soul.

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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