Rivkah’s Existentialism: Wholeness and Brokenness

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Sruli Fruchter


In the pink, skin-colored morning
every limp blade of grass in this small
but entire city will be dead and I
will walk out alive and well and happy.
-Anthony G. Sobin, “Why I Am Sad

The baton of God’s mission passes from generation to generation, narrative to narrative, almost inconspicuously, without much explicit declaration. Avraham and Sarah birth and wed Yitzhak, clearing their outstanding obligations to their futures. Though it feels like the urgency of a last minute’s haste, the father and mother of nations prepare the next generation for actualization. The responsibility no longer lies in their hands.

With the departure of the baton from Avraham and Sarah’s clutch, the onus comes to rest with Yitzhak and Rivkah. The two now step into the Torah’s sole spotlight with the responsibility of progressing God’s mission. Avraham and Sarah’s journeying brought escapades and adventures, often more treacherous and unnerving than excitedly daring. Now, presumably, the same will come for Yitzhak and Rivkah. Readers, and perhaps the couple themselves, would hope for smooth sailing, a straightened path without humps or cracks. But ease is hardly the framework for God’s plots.

Here, we explore the sequel to “parenting” God’s future nation. Yitzhak and Rivkah’s tales begin fraught with hardship, though in different terms than their predecessors. The burden of legacy in the context of barrenness—now establishing a precedent in the family—solicits petitions for change, heartfelt hope at the risk of devastation. When Rivkah ultimately conceives, she faces existential concerns at the inner conflict within her, the torrents of pregnancy that she is ill-fated to accept. The fissures from within manifest from without after her birth, and cracks in the family frame begin to widen. What should have been their blank canvas begins stained with life’s hardship.

Our focus shall be the self’s flickering existence as seen through Rivkah, the bearer of this blunted reality, as life itself comes into question when death appears a more peaceful end. “Why am I?” Rivkah painfully ponders (Bereishit 25:22), in hardship and suffering, for perhaps this life I so desperately sought, so anxiously longed for, is not what I can handle. This question surely faces each person at some point in life. So we turn to its biblical emergence.

I. The Burden of Legacy
“And these are the generations of Yitzhak son of Avraham. Avraham begot Yitzhak” (ibid. 25:19). Thus begins a new book in the series. The first clause follows standard biblical language when beginning new sections—“and these are the generations (toledot) of so-and-so.” The specificity of “Yitzhak son of Avraham” establishes “which” Yitzhak concerns our attention, but the latter portion is superfluous. If Yitzhak is Avraham’s son then, presumably, it is Avraham who is his father. The simple addition hints at something more disconcerting about the genealogy.

Rashi, winding the clock back several chapters, explains the addition as a necessary clarification, indicating that Avraham, not Avimelekh—the short-term captor of Sarah—was Yitzhak’s father. For that reason, God designed Yitzhak’s face similar to Avraham’s, an external validation of an internal truth that, otherwise, would remain hopelessly ambiguous.[1] Describing a great feast held by Avraham and Sarah after they finally birthed Yitzhak, the Gemara describes:

… and still, [the guests] were gossiping and said, “If Sarah at 90 years old could birth, could Avraham at 100 years old beget?” Immediately, Yitzhak’s facial features were transformed, and he resembled Avraham. [The guests] all exclaimed and said, “Avraham begot Yitzhak” (Bava Metzia 87a).

Gossip, blabbering words of rumors and suspicions and doubts, swirls around Avraham and Sarah, pointing threatening fingers that jeopardize their familial reputation; how could the mother and father chosen by God not have their own biological children—let alone another man’s child—to move their legacy onward? Indeed, at the precise moment of gossip, “immediately” (miyyad), Yitzhak’s facial features transform to provide empirical proof of his lineage. The concern for Yitzhak’s identity runs deeper, as even Avraham, according to one midrash, faces skepticism:

Come and observe the power of peace: In the time that Sarah was carried from Pharaoh’s hand to Avimelekh’s and became pregnant with Yitzhak, the nations of the world [expressed doubts about Avraham’s fatherhood]… and there was suspicion in Avraham’s heart over these words. What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He said to the angel designated to supervise the embryo’s formation, “Make all features of [Yitzhak] in the likeness of his father, so that all will attest that he is the son of Avraham.”[2]

Why do Yitzhak’s genetics warrant such concern? What necessitates this perturbing anxiety? For Seforno, the answer is simple: Yitzhak is Avraham’s only true seed.[3] To subjugate Yitzhak’s identity to scrutiny is to call into question the foundation built to lend the family a path forward. Before Yitzhak’s life even takes off, at least in the Midrash, he is impacted by the implications of gossip, of milling concerns and questions that threaten his role for his family and for God. In God’s good graces, the threat is averted.

“And Yitzhak was 40 years old when he took Rivkah, daughter of Betuel the Arami, from Padan Aram, sister of Lavan the Arami, to be his wife” (Bereishit 25:20). This accounting of who Rivkah is—as arbitrary as it is excessive—on its face follows the same mundane expression as the previous pasuk: a refresher on who are the key characters in toledot Yitzhak. Between the words, however, more is intimated:

What does “Arami” come to teach?… Rather it comes to teach you that [Rivkah’s] father was a deceiver and her brother was a deceiver, and even the people in her place [were deceivers]. So this righteous woman that departs from among them, to what is she comparable? To “a lily among the thorns” (Shir Ha-Shirim 2:2).[4]

There is great achievement in Rivkah and Yitzhak’s lives, though not explicitly found in the pesukim. In Yitzhak’s case, aside from God’s benevolence in reconstructing the proof of his features, Radak notes that his character was so pristine, so altruistic and compassionate, that his actions, too, testified to his paternal source.[5] For Rivkah, her very being testifies to her herculean, miraculous state—like a lily among the thorns; planted in desolation, she grew in moral beauty. There is much in the background that fills the space of the seemingly quiet lives the Torah indicates thus far.

Still, it is in this quiet solitude that God, as it were, is provoked to agitate the equilibrium. Yevamot 64a states that God “mit’aveh”—He desires, hungers, yearns—for the righteous’ prayers. Radak explains that, in the case of Yitzhak and Rivkah, God made them wait 20 years from marriage until Rivkah could conceive,[6] for He sought to leave clear, verifiable evidence of his intervention in their lives, a demonstration of His great goodness.

In the Gemara, R. Yitzhak compares the righteous’ prayers to a shovel or pitchfork—“Just as the shovel/pitchfork reverses the grain from place to place, so do the righteous’ prayers reverse the traits of the Holy One, blessed be He, from fury to mercy” (Yevamot 64a). The longing for relationships with those devoted to Him stirs God to seek their consolation, their appeal, their words. It is that somewhat backhanded desire for desire that motivates God’s stalling of Yitzhak and Rivkah’s children.

Va-yetar Yitzhak to Hashem on behalf of his wife because she was barren; va-yei’ater lo Hashem, and Rivkah his wife became pregnant” (Bereishit 25:21). More than the classic word for “he prayed,” hitpalel, va-yetar refers to an abundant, overwhelming prayer. Rashi cites Yehezkel 35:13 to specify its piling, concentrating, and thickening nature—like smoke flooding a sealed room and hastily spreading to fill every crevice.[7] The urgency of Yitzhak’s prayers, that they come with such rapid multiplicity, suggests the quaking fears within him and Rivkah. Indeed, given Sarah’s own barrenness, a pattern is finding establishment; his mother’s case was not a mere fluke but a divinely crafted condition. Radak notes that Yitzhak could have simply found another wife to be built up from her, as Sarah did, but due to his love for Rivkah, he sought her womb and hers alone.[8] His commitment perhaps attests to the hysteria of va-yetar. And yet, with immediacy—still in the same pasuk and with no interruption—God allows himself to be entreated, and Rivkah conceives.

The burden of legacy followed Yitzhak and Rivkah in the earlier parts of their lives, but upon their marriage, the odds appear defeated. 20 years later, no future is in sight. The provoked anxiety is unabating, and the legacy’s burden weighs greatly. But they find relief soon enough when Rivkah becomes pregnant—until another issue arises, the first of its kind: the soul’s inner torrents interlaced with the body’s.

II. Fissures Within Me
Pregnancy signals the anticipation before novelty, the waiting period for renewal—when a new human being is inducted into the world. The nature of waiting is characterized by its endurance and uncertainty, for the long, waning months and for the hazard of birth. So some angst is expected, if not guaranteed. Yet Rivkah, upon God’s answer to Yitzhak’s prayers, feels trouble brewing within her.

Va-yitrotzetzu the children within her, and she said, ‘If this is so, why am I?’ And she went li-drosh God” (Bereishit 25:22). Va-yitrotzetzu is baked with intensive definitions—the children oppressed, crushed, chased. Caught by this word, Rashi says it “begs” a midrashic reading.[9] One prominent midrash explains:

Va-yitrotzetzu the children within her.” R. Yohanan and Reish Lakish [dispute]. R. Yohanan said: “This one ran to kill that one, and that one ran to kill this one.” Reish Lakish said: “This one permitted the commands of that one, and that one permitted the commands of this one.” … Whenever [Rivkah] stood by synagogues and study halls, Ya’akov ran and jerked to leave… and whenever she passed by houses of idolatry, Eisav ran and jerked to leave…[10]

Much is happening within Rivkah. By one account, attempts at assassination, by another, legislative developments of Jewish law, and by a third, blossoming inclinations and desires. Rashi, referencing Yalkut Shimoni 111:2, adds another possibility: The children within her are struggling over how to divide their inheritance;[11] this torrent is born within from considerations of legacy. This too-muchness transpiring within Rivkah is confusing, defying easy explanation or understanding, hence why it “begs” for the midrash’s expansive word. What is clear, though, is that Rivkah is neither briefed nor prepared for these events. Indeed, the text tells us that “ha-banim,” the children, thrash within her, but she has yet to be informed that she is carrying twins. A restless, violent movement, va-yitrotzetzu manifests as a physiological sensation within Rivkah that sends her to a penetrating question: “If this is so, why am I?”

Rashi and Bekhor Shor suggest more circumstantial meanings, localized in the text. To Rashi: “If this pain of pregnancy is so great, why did I desire to be pregnant?”[12] To Bekhor Shor: “If I will miscarry (as this thrashing indicates to her), why should I be pregnant at all?”[13] There is pragmatism here interlaced with misgivings, but nothing of such extremes. Ramban, though, takes a more striking reading:

And the correct [reading] in my eyes is that she said, “If this will be so with me, why am I in this world? If only I would not be, that I would die or I would not have been.” The reason is similar to “As when I was not I should be” [meaning, “I should be as when I did not exist”] (Iyov 10:19).[14]

There are existential pains born from Rivkah’s inner strife, brought on by her thrashing children. Ramban brazenly likens her to Iyov—the biblical epitome of despair, of theodicy, of the bad wrought against the good. This suffering extends well beyond physiological pains. Rivkah suffers from a now ruminating mind of pungent worries: Why am I? Why am I under such conditions? Why must I endure? Why am I at all? Rivkah becomes a philosopher perturbed by a restlessness of her own, a “va-yitrotzetzu” of perilous thoughts.

When we consider Rivkah in her totality thus far—her origins among a deceitful family, her perseverance toward righteousness, her plague of barrenness, and now her rambunctious pregnancy—this conclusion is not far afield. Her life flashes before her eyes (“Why am I in this world?”), and she is dragged to frightening considerations (“If only I would not be, that I would die or I would not have been”). When she goes lidrosh God, the too-muchness of it all trails behind.

That movement, lidrosh, is to seek, to inquire, to consult, or in Ramban’s understanding, to pray.[15] Rivkah accepts that she cannot withstand the current conditions, so she beseeches God’s aid—if not of desperation, then of necessity.

“Two nations are in your womb,” God says, “and two peoples from your innards will be separated, and one people will be mightier than the other people, and the master will serve the younger” (Bereishit 25:23). There is much material communicated here with little context. “Two nations”—supposedly twins—live within Rivkah, and once she births them (a subtle assurance that she will not suffer a miscarriage), they will separate; perhaps they are not formed to dwell together, thus warring within her, va-yitrotzetzu. Further than that, the story unravels beyond birth: “one people will be mightier than the other,” with no indication of whom that shall be, yet the “rav,” the master, will serve the “tza’ir,” the younger. Though God’s words initially appear to quell Rivkah’s concerns, they remain cryptic and, in some sense, tangential.

A first reading understands God to mean: “The torrents within you are because you will birth twins who are already enthralled in power dynamics that will pain their lives.” But that’s not quite the case. Rivkah senses trouble from the twins “be-kirbah,” literally meaning “in her innerness,” but God speaks to the twins “be-vitnekh,” in [her] womb (Bereishit 25:22-23). The context of their speech differs: God speaks to a physiological phenomenon, while Rivkah speaks to an existential one. Though the first pasuk plainly refers to her womb, perhaps its deliberate usage of “be-kirbah” indicates the extent of these events, even the reason for their inclusion in the Torah. Rivkah senses that something is amiss; eventually confirmed by God, it prompts her to question life itself.

What, however, might that be? Rashi writes that, after their birth, the twins will split paths—one towards evil, one towards wholeness.[16] Evil and wholeness quarrel within her, and as Bekhor Shor says, the master (whom we later learn to be Eisav) refuses to accept his subjugation to the younger, and so the two live in war.

Further along the pregnancy, “behold—twins [were] in her womb” (Bereishit 25:24). Bereishit Rabbah 63:8 eyes the missing aleph in “tomim,” twins, attributing it to the fact that “Ya’akov was righteous and Eisav was evil”; the absence indicates the presence of something obscure. Perhaps, we might say, these fissures are what peck at Rivkah.

Rivkah carries two worlds within her—one of righteousness and wholeness, the other of evil and wretchedness. They violently yank, thrash, and war within her. These will emerge to be two nations, chained to power plays and politics, vying to rule over one another. “Two hated nations are in your womb,” Bereishit Rabbah 63:7 says, both abhorred by idolators.[17] These torrents within her are frightening: On one plane, for the reality she is birthing. Evil will enter the world from exiting her womb. On another plane, for her ability to produce such repellent forces. “If this is so, why am I in this world?” we recall her crying. “If this is so”—if, the word of uncertainty, my senses of myself are true, that indeed there are warring forces within me—“why am I in this world?” How can Rivkah, the righteous woman who escaped the snares of familial influence, “a lily among the thorns,” herself produce thorns? What is this to say about her?

The fissures within Rivkah tear into her. The problem, literally, lies within her. It is a problem she opts to resolve. 

III. Divergences From Me
“And the first one came out ruddy, all of him like a cloak of hair, and they called his name, ‘Eisav.’ And afterward came his brother, whose hand grasped the heel of Eisav, and he called his name, ‘Ya’akov.’ And Yitzhak was 60 years old at their birth” (Bereishit 25:25-26).

For all its troubles, the pregnancy eases into a relatively uneventful birth; there are no indications of unusually painful contractions or general complications. But some things are notable. Each twin carries an oddity with him into the world, a definitional identity based on the uncanny element of his emergence. For Eisav, it’s his physical makeup; for Ya’akov, his clinched grip. Before Rivkah comes the fissures within her, now divergence budding from her.

That Eisav was “admoni,” here translated as “ruddy,” is also understood to refer to a reddish complexion. Rashi, citing Bereishit Rabbah 63:8, symbolically reads it as a testament to his future nature: Eisav will always shed blood.[18] It is, we can infer, innate to Eisav, this proclivity to gore, to draw blood, shown by his very being. This follows Rashi’s explanation of his being named “Eisav,” for he was made, asui (spelled with the same Hebrew letters as Eisav), like an older person.[19] Something about his appearance begs onlookers to sense something remiss, a certain deficiency—or perhaps an excess—that lures him to blood.

For Ya’akov, it is his clutching of Eisav’s heel that earns him his name. Rashi, citing the same midrash as before, says that Ya’akov was the “first drop” of Yitzhak that impregnated Rivkah and, thus, the true firstborn. In due time, he would reclaim his birthright status from Eisav through justice.[20]

One interesting feature of the text is the ambiguity of who, exactly, names Eisav (“and they called his name”) and Ya’akov (“and he called his name”). For Eisav, Rashi suggests that the general public milled that name from their sight of him, or perhaps it was Yitzhak and Rivkah themselves. For Ya’akov, Rashi says that it was Hashem or Yitzhak, while Ibn Ezra says it was the latter or a random individual. In any case, there appears a striking vagueness, if not a glaring absence, of Yitzhak and Rivkah’s involvement in their children’s identities. Why the Torah would exclude their names from the naming if, as one answer goes, they indeed named their children, is unclear. What we do know, however, is that Ya’akov and Eisav face two very different developments through adolescence.

With a removed simplicity, the Torah records: “And the young boys grew up, and it was that Eisav became a man who knew trapping, a man of the field, and Ya’akov was a ‘tam’ man, sitting in tents” (25:27). The blurred distinctions of the twins rumbling within Rivkah begin to sharpen; their incongruity materializes beyond the womb. Eisav is, by a simple reading, a hunter who pursues his prey with keen expertise, “yodei’a tzayid,” a man who “knows trapping.” This is meant in contrast to Ya’akov, the man who is “tam”—innocent, blameless, whole, as Rashi says:

Tam—He is not experienced in all those things. His mouth was like his heart; one who is not apt to deceive is called “tam.”[21]

Ya’akov has a lucidity to him that accentuates his words with honesty, for he is not a deceiver, a conniver; that, Rashi says, is precisely Eisav’s character, a person who was skilled in hunting, namely, in trapping and tricking their father Yitzhak to believe he was righteous.[22] This uncharitable reading, ripe in Midrash and among many commentaries, sees Eisav as someone morally degenerate. Thus, it is Ya’akov, the one of wholeness and genuineness, who sits in tents—of prayer and Torah study, Ha’amek Davar says.[23]

Eisav is a man of the field, Ya’akov of the tents. If Ya’akov is whole and simple and honest, then Eisav is broken and complicated and deceptive. The pair’s repelling forces almost by nature push them onto different paths. Rashi says that, until they became 13 years old, their differences were unidentifiable. Come the age of adulthood, and all could see who they were.[24]

This, no doubt, proved challenging for Rivkah and Yitzhak: How are parents to raise two children of such opposite beings, one good and the other bad? Unlike Yitzhak and Yishmael, both Eisav and Ya’akov are full-fledged children of  “equal” genealogical standing. Rav Hirsch, in a famous illumination that stretches the text quite creatively, blames Yitzhak and Rivkah for failing to do as much:

But that is precisely why everyone “on his path” has to be educated in different ways for the one great goal according to the prospective future of life from his disposition. Wanting to teach and educate Ya’akov and Eisav on the same school desk, under the same habits of life, in the same way, for example for a studying, thinking life, would mean: destroying one of them with certainty… If Yitzhak and Rivkah had looked into Eisav and asked themselves early on, how can even an Eisav, how can the strength and the courage and the dexterity that lies dormant in him, be won for activity in the service of God… Ya’akov and Eisav, with their very different dispositions, would have remained twin brothers in spirit and in life, Eisav’s sword could have married Ya’akov’s spirit early on, and who knows what a different shape then would have taken the course of the times…[25]

These two worlds, once contained within Rivkah, could not be reconciled, brought to thrive under the same roof. The famous Cherokee legend of two wolves describes an elder teaching a young child that two wolves dwell within each person—one good, the other bad. Intrigued, the child asks which wolf will prevail. “Simple,” the elder says, “whichever wolf you feed.” Perhaps in that light, Rav Hirsch suggests Rivkah and Yitzhak fed the wrong wolf within Eisav. An apparent neglect, a failure, is what set Eisav on his path, not an innate fate. As Rabbi Elazar says, “A person needs to accompany their child until they are 13 years old.”[26] Until age 13, children are more totally the parents’ responsibility.

But the parental slip-ups appear to extend further, as we’re told: “And Yitzhak loved Eisav for “tzayid be-fiv,” and Rivkah loved Ya’akov” (Bereishit 25:28). Commentaries are split on a reading. Rashi says that, more plainly, Yitzhak loved Eisav because his “tzayid,” trappings, were “be-fiv,” in Yitzhak’s mouth; more exegetically, Eisav deceived Yitzhak with his mouth.[27] In other words, not being a “tam,” Eisav fooled his father into gaining his love. Seforno, though, says Yitzhak also loved Eisav, while Rivkah only loved Ya’akov.[28] Yet, Shir Ha-Shirim Rabbah makes a remarkable comment:

“For love is as intense as death” (Shir Ha-Shirim 8:6)—the love that Yitzhak had for Eisav; that is what is written: “Yitzhak loved Eisav.”[29]

It is clear that Yitzhak loved Eisav, deeply so. The alliances, so to speak, are laid out; the sides chosen. Yitzhak’s favor lies with Eisav, and Rivkah’s with Ya’akov. The division and distinction among the children remain pointedly firm.

Many investigate more closely what draws Yitzhak and Rivkah to their respectively favored children, but that is not of our interest now. Instead, what we close with, are the underlying rumblings of this family dynamic, a philosophical whisper that seduces the ear to wonder what this narrative serves in all its details and definitions. I suggest that it turns back to Rivkah.

IV. Why Am I, in a Broken World
Though our story begins with the toledot of Yitzhak, it soon becomes the story of Rivkah. Her barrenness, and her restoration through fertility, fall under primary focus. Her and Yitzhak’s world begins to splinter, but in divine grace, she conceives. Only then do we find such resonant tones of philosophical inquiry—so intense that Ramban compares them to the likes of Iyov!

“If this is so, why am I in this world?” Rivkah asked. Perhaps we can read her question more fully and, boldly, suggest an answer.

If this is so, Rivkah wonders, if there can exist two feuding forces; a dualism of morality between good and evil; a clash of ethical cultures; a shattering, a breaking, a rupture, in the wholeness of life, that is designed by God, then how can I be in this world? How can human beings be in pursuit of the good life, the whole life, the godly life, when God engenders its counter-opposite? The fissures within Rivkah, the rumblings of war, are unbearable, and she inquires of God for redress. The war of nations, politics, and power, lives within Rivkah, and soon it will enter into the world.

The immediate “why” of causal reasoning for her pains does not include a future purpose. Instead, she is assured that it will manifest in the world before her, that the fissures within her will birth divergences from her. The splitting was enough for her to contemplate death.

In a world of brokenness, of Ya’akovs and Eisavs, of sheltered solitudes and daring escapades, of good and evil, we can only feel pained by the dualism. And when we recognize that the mirrored reflection lives within us, that we, in fact, can bring about such forces into our world, we can only seek out God. Perhaps what Rivkah saw in Ya’akov, what she loved about him, was that he was an “ish tam,” a whole man. His mouth spoke what his heart felt, and so he dwelled in the quietude of study and prayer, in God’s chambers, divorced from the brokenness and immersed in the wholeness.

This is why Rivkah favors him, for he is whole and good and true, offering no contradiction or troubles. But as the narrative draws on, further than we have examined, Rivkah is the same one who calls upon Ya’akov to be bad, to ease into the snakeskin of deception. For sometimes a broken world is needed, and we may be the breakers, to arrive at a wholeness more cherished and real than before.

[1] Rashi to Bereishit 25:19, s.v. “Avraham holid et Yitzhak.”

[2] Midrash Tanhuma, Toledot 1.

[3] Seforno to Bereishit 25:19, s.v. “Avraham holid et Yitzhak.”

[4] Bereishit Rabbah 63:4.

[5] Radak to Bereishit 25:19, s.v. “Avraham holid et Yitzhak.”

[6] Radak to Bereishit 25:26, s.v. “ve-Yitzhak ben shishim shanah.”

[7] Rashi to Bereishit 25:21, s.v. “va-yei’ater lo.”

[8] Radak to Bereishit 25:21, s.v. “le-nokhah ishto.”

[9] Rashi to Bereishit 25:22, s.v. “va-yitrotzetzu.”

[10] Bereishit Rabbah 63:6.

[11] Rashi to Bereishit 25:22, s.v. “va-yitrotzetzu.”

[12] Rashi to Bereishit 25:22, s.v. “va-tomer im kein”; s.v. “lamah zeh anokhi.”

[13] Bekhor Shor to Bereishit 25:22, s.v. “va-tomer im kein lamah zeh anokhi.”

[14] Ramban to Bereishit 25:22, s.v. “va-tomer im kein lamah zeh anokhi.”

[15] Ramban to Bereishit 25:22, s.v. “va-teilekh lidrosh et Hashem.”

[16] Rashi to Bereishit 25:23, s.v. “mi-mei’ayikh yiparedu.”

[17] It is important to note the overt paradox between this midrash and Bereishit Rabbah 63:6, cited earlier: Here, Eisav appears scorned by idolators, but earlier, he appears drawn to them. We can suggest that midrashim need not coalesce given their fluid, unsystematic style; for our purposes, then, these midrashim more importantly emphasize Hazal’s primary observation that Rivkah’s inner life within her womb is overtaken by conflict, strife, and danger. Aligning the particulars are less important than the underlying sentiment dominating their perspective.

[18] Rashi to Bereishit 25:25, s.v. “admoni.”

[19] Rashi to Bereishit 25:25, s.v. “va-yikre’u shemo Eisav.”

[20] Rashi to Bereishit 25:26, s.v. “ve-aharei khein yatza ahiv, etc.”

[21] Rashi to Bereishit 25:27, s.v. “tam.”

[22] Rashi to Bereishit 25:27, s.v. “yodei’a tzayid.”

[23] Ha’ameik Davar to Bereishit 25:27, s.v. “yosheiv ohalim.”

[24] Rashi to Bereishit 25:27, s.v. “va-yigdelu…va-yehi Eisav.”

[25] Hirsch to Bereishit 25:27, s.v. “va-yigdelu.”

[26] Bereishit Rabbah 63:10.

[27] Rashi to Bereishit 25:28, s.v. “be-fiv.”

[28] Seforno to Bereishit 25:28, s.v. “va-ye’ehav Yitzhak et Eisav.”

[29] Shir Ha-Shirim Rabbah 8:6.


Sruli Fruchter is a rabbinical student at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and the director of operations at 18Forty (, a Jewish media company exploring Jewish thought in a modern age. Sruli was the 100th editor in chief of The Commentator at Yeshiva University, where he studied International & Global Affairs.