by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Gen. 25:22-23, "And the two children were pushing inside her, and she said
if so, why do I exist? And she went to ask H'. And H' said to her,
there are two nations in your womb..."
This passage is difficult to understand. What is so unusual if children
are kicking in the womb? As Rashi explains, nothing is wrong with that -
so it's obvious that this verse means something extraordinary. So the
Medrash tells us that the word for pushing or crushing, "Retzitza", in
this case is being used for "Ritza", running. When Rivka would walk by
the Yeshiva of Shem and Aver, Yaakov would "run", pushing to get out. And
when Rivka would walk by a house of idols, Esav his brother would push.
So Rivka is upset, she asks what's going on, and she's told: "not to
worry, you're having twins." Excuse me, but - why is this helpful? So now
instead of having one child who is interested in all sorts of gods, both
real and imaginary, she has one who is interested in the One H', and one
interested in idols. Why is she comforted?
I suppose in simple terms, she already knew that the line of Avraham
had continued with Yitzhak, rather than with Yishmael or any other
brother - and so she understood that even with a son dedicated to idols,
she only needed to find one pure son to carry the line forward. Therefore
twins - one good and one wicked - were better than a single confused child.
On a deeper level, I heard the following from a leader in today's Mussar
movement (Mussar - moral exhortation): that a son moving in the wrong
direction can be turned around, but it is much more difficult to
"straighten out" someone who is moving every which way. The same Greek
root that produced "epicurian" is also the source for "apikorus", a
Avraham, by rejecting polytheism, would have been branded an intolerant
bigot in today's politically correct society. If Rome went to war with
Venice, and Venice lost, then the citizens would offer sacrifices to
the Roman gods. This was not because of a "rejection" of Venician gods,
but rather simple pragmatism: obviously, the Roman gods were stronger!
So all the cultures of the world accepted the essential validity of
everyone else's gods. Abraham - the father of Judaism - rejected this
At a certain point, we must choose a direction!
Text Copyright © 1994 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.