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Wednesday, Mar-Cheshvan 29, 5783 (Hakhel Year) / November 23, 2022


The birth of a child brings joy to the family, especially to a couple who didn’t have children for twenty years after their marriage.  In this week’s Parsha, Toldot, we read about such a couple. The Torah tells us the story of Rivkah and Yitzchak, who didn’t have children until twenty years after their marriage.  Yet, when Rivkah finally became pregnant, her pregnancy brought her great distress.


The Torah gives the following account: “Yitzchak prayed repeatedly to G-d opposite his wife (i.e., they both prayed) because she was barren.  G-d accepted his prayer and his wife, Rivkah, conceived.”


The Torah continues, “The children struggled inside her.  She said, if the pain of pregnancy is so difficult, why do I want to be like this?” She decided to go to Shem, son of Noah, who was the sage at that time, to inquire why her pregnancy was so much more difficult compared to other women.


G-d told her through Shem, “Two esteemed individuals are in your womb. Two kingdoms will separate from you. One kingdom will be mightier than the other, when one rises the other will fall and the elder son will serve the younger son.” Upon hearing that she was carrying twins, she felt better.


Q.   What were the struggles in her womb all about?  Why, when Shem told her that she was carrying twins, although the struggles within her didn’t stop, she already felt better?


A.   The sages explain that when Rivkah would pass the Study Halls of Shem, (where Torah was studied even before it was given to everyone at Mount Sinai – See Genesis 26, 5, that Abraham studied Torah), she felt the child struggling to get there.  But when she went by a house of Idol worship, she felt the same thing all over again. This caused her great distress and pain.  


Her fear was that the child she was carrying was one with a dual personality.  One who is confused and cannot distinguish right from wrong.  When she goes by a Torah center, he wants to go join there and when passing a place of idol worship, he runs for that.  However, when she heard that she was carrying twins and it was not the same child who wishes to go to both places, rather one wants to serve G-d and it’s the other one wants to worship idols, she felt much better. 


When the Jewish people were wavering between serving G-d and idols, Elijah the prophet admonished them, “How long will you waver.  How long will you jump from one to the other?” 


Elijah told them to make up their mind one way or another.  He was going to prove to them that G-d was the true G-d.  But serving the two is neither here nor there. Confusion is the worst thing. A mistake can be corrected when recognized, but confusion is very difficult to fix. Thus, when Rivkah realized that she was carrying twins and each of the children she was carrying had a clear vision of their future world, she felt better. It gave her hope that in time even the child who now gravitates toward idols will recognize his mistake and repent.