Many perplexing events are presented to us in our Torah. This fact, in itself, should be enough to show us the Torah is not man made. For example, if any of us were to write about our family, especially with the intention that future generations think positively and venerate them, we would not include problematic accounts or events from their lives. This permanent record would be available for all to read and may create just the opposite result. Lingering doubts of their character may ensue. How could he or she do such a thing? How can we respect them? Where is their righteousness?
However, our Torah does not shy away from these episodes in our family history. The Torah speaks the truth. It only records these special episodes in the lives of our patriarchs and matriarchs to teach us what our ancestors did to bring about the will of God to create the nation of Israel in the land of Israel. Knowing this goal of our patriarchs and matriarchs helps us better understand their thinking and place all of their actions in proper perspective. A superficial reading, one that does not take note of this crucial underlying motivation, is dangerous. Let us look a little more closely at one such entry.
The written record of our early family history, the Torah, never mentions the details of how God will bring His plan to fruition. Other than some general prophetic communications, God doesn’t initially reveal, for example, which descendent of Yitzchak will continue the philosophy of life created by his father, Avraham. We don’t know which of Yitzchak’s children will be charged to carry on the covenant between God and Abraham. Perhaps, as is later the case with all of Yaakov’s sons, both Esau and Yaakov will. In fact, the details of the plan were left to the wisdom of those dedicated to fulfilling this mission.
Yitzchak had his approach and formulated his plan. It consisted of including both his son Esau and his son Yaakov. Yitzchak thought the two brothers, and by extension their offspring, would build the nation of Israel together. Each one would contribute his special talent. Esau would contribute his skill in the conquest of the material world and Yaakov would contribute his skill at intellectual conquest. Each, through their respective blessings, would bolster the other and form the nation that reflects the Creator of the universe.
Rivka saw things differently. As the mother of both boys, she correctly understood the nature and personalities of her two sons. She knew, as perhaps only a mother can, that her sons could not work together in the way her husband envisioned. The result would be disastrous leading, quite possibly, to the death of both sons simultaneously delaying God’s will from coming into earthly existence. Rivka could not just stand by without attempting to intervene to advance the will of God. Rivka formulated a different plan to bring about God’s will. Her plan only involved one of her sons, Yaakov.
Rivka’s keen insight and bold action actually saved God’s plan. Each step taken by Yaakov in his dramatic encounter with his father, Yitzchak, was orchestrated by Rivka. What unfolds before our eyes demonstrated Rivka’s brilliance. She engineered that the building of the covenantal nation would continue uninterrupted. Literally, by the end of the day not only did Rivka secure that Yaakov would get the blessing due to him, the ברכת אברהם, but he would also receive the one intended by Yitzchak to go to Esau. It was her plan to merge both blessings that Yitzchak had to bestow onto one son, Yaakov.
Was Rivka justified by what she did? Was this a case of the “ends justify the means?” No. It was a case of the halachic, legal, principle that we learn from Psalms 119:126, “עת לעשות לה’ הפרו תורתך , In a time to act for God, they may break your Torah.” Only someone on the level of a Rivka or a Yaakov, devoted night and day to both studying and fulfilling the will of God, could know that such a moment of emergency was at hand. In their estimation they were facing the collapse of the Divine plan.
Rivka had the right to invoke this legal permit to activate her plan. Subsequent events recorded by the Torah prove the course of action prescribed by Rivka and carried out by Yaakov was correct. The Torah informs us that Yitzchak shuddered when he realized what he almost did and in the beginning of next week’s parsha, ויצא, God tells Yaakov that only through his progeny will the covenant of Avraham be fulfilled. Such a promise by God would be absurd if, in fact, His plan was for both Esau and Yaakov to create the nation of Israel. A greater endorsement for her actions Rivka couldn’t have.
We owe a profound debt of gratitude to our matriarch Rivka. But more than that, she provides us with a paradigm for our own lives. As the current members and standard bearers of this covenantal nation, thoughtful reflection must always be at the center of all that we do. In this way we will continue to merit those blessings vouched safe with Yaakov but made possible only by the wisdom of our matriarch, Rivka.
Rabbi Robert Kaplan