Parashat Toldos - A Matter of Perspective

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 11/04/21

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
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Yitzchok and Rivka were both pleading with G-d to grant them a child. The Torah asserts that indeed ‘G-d granted his plea.’

The Talmud points out that the Torah’s emphasis on how ‘his’ plea — Yitzchok’s — was answered, but not that of ‘her’ — Rivkah — teaches us, that the prayer of a righteous man, the son of a righteous man, does not compare to the prayer of a righteous man, the son of a wicked man.  (יבמות סד.)

Despite the fact that in the preceding verse the Torah underscores how Rivkah was ‘the daughter of Besuel the Aramean of Padan-Aram, the sister of Laban,’ in order ‘to tell her praise, that she was the daughter of a wicked man and the sister of a wicked man and her place was [inhabited by] wicked people, yet she did not learn from their deeds,’ nevertheless she was seemingly inferior to Yitzchok, and not as deserving of of having her request granted as Yitzchok.

Weren’t we taught that those who struggle against the pervasive influences around them, climbing out of that pit, overcoming temptation in choosing to live inspired, rise above those who were proverbially, ‘born atop the mountain’?

How is a child, who may have parents who relinquished the comforts of non-observance to embrace a religious lifestyle, learning this portion in grade school to react when hearing this lesson?

Are his parents’ fervent prayers for success in all aspects of life less likely to be heard than his friends who descend from lineages of Torah observance that go back generations?

If we examine the exact ordering in the quote from the Talmud, where it states ‘that the prayers of the righteous, the son of the righteous, does not compare to that of the righteous, the child of the wicked,’ seemingly placing the son of the wicked on a ‘higher’ plateau, than that of the son of the righteous, who cannot compare to it, it would clearly affirm our previous instinctive sentiment.

So why then was only Yitzchok answered and not Rivkah?

What difference does it really make? Was this assertion somehow meant to shun Rivkah, making her feel unworthy? Can she change the fact that she had a deficient upbringing and parents who were unworthy? Whatever calculations G-d has for His decisions what is the practical difference in that for us, if we cannot control it anyway?

If we were to take this notion at face value, that the righteous, the son of the righteous, has an advantage merit wise, so why does it emphasize the tefillah — prayer, of the righteous and not simply the ‘merit’ of the righteous?

Tefillah, is not merely a tool to be used to bring about our wishes.

It is a relationship between us and G-d, wherein we bare our souls and develop a dialogue and intimate relationship with Hashem.

One who has taken the initiative to depart from a life devoid of meaning and values, to enlist in adherence to Torah and its laws, rightfully feels that the sacrifice of undertaking that yoke deserves the attention and appreciation of our loving Father in Heaven to respond in kind. Not necessarily with the granting of all of one’s requests, but at least to provide the tools one needs to maintain that growth and excitement in this newfound devotion. One who has undertaken this task is generally ready for challenge with no expectation of instant success, just hope for continuous growth. The undertaking itself is personally gratifying.

On the other hand, the challenge for those born into righteous observance, those who have not taken such arduous leaps, is to feel worthy of G-d’s benevolence. The one for who observance is instinctive pines for opportunities and challenges that G-d will provide to make him worthy and provoke him to true personal greatness and accomplishment.

Perhaps it is not the measure of one more worthy than the other, but in the very nature of their prayers, the very nature of their relationship with G-d.

Immediately following this passage in the Talmud, it goes on to discuss how G-d ‘desires the prayers of the righteous’. It is for that reason that G-d made the Patriarchs and Matriarchs barren so they shall be prodded to create a deeper bond with Him through prayer.

For the one who seeks opportunity to find ‘his’ unique role and challenge in defining his greatness — the tzaddik, the son of the tzaddik — the response must come sooner.

Rivkah who gained tremendous satisfaction in her relationship with G-d, was more capable of awaiting the response without ever feeling despondent or failed.

Indeed, the tefillah of each one comes from a different need and perspective with each one requiring a different response. One is not ‘greater just simply incomparable.

The Holy Ropshitzer once observed a fellow yid, who stemmed from very humble beginnings, engage as he did, in hours of genuine and enthused davening, followed by several hours of intense Torah study. Upon conclusion they brought the fellow some refreshments, and it was evident upon this tzaddik the contentment that enveloped him in that moment, obviously regaling in joy over the exciting choice he had made in life that elevated him constantly.

Then he bemoaned, “I, the Rebbe of Ropshitz also daven and learn with the same zeal, but when I recall the avodas Hashem of my ancestors, I realize how truly far I am from them, I am broken and smashed into a thousand pieces... when will I sense joy?”

The Torah begins with the rightful sense of accomplishment and closeness Rivkah felt due to her courageous choice to buck the trend of her family in bravely seeking an inspired life. That satisfaction depends on her bond with G-d and fueled her enthusiasm during the many years of childlessness.

The righteous, the son of the wicked.

With this introduction the Torah then segues to the challenge she and Yitzchok faced in longing for a child that would carry the legacy of Avraham.

And G-d granted his plea.

Yitzchok, in his relationship with G-d was desperate to raise the child who would bring about his longed-for goal to be worthy on his own right, rising to the levels of his illustrious forbearer.

The righteous, the son of a righteous man

May we each discover the joy in the pursuit of our noble goals, each one of us according to our unique circumstance, for no two are comparable, nor is either superior, it is all about our relationship with Hashem.

May we sense it every moment of our lives.


צבי יהודה טייכמאן