Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9) Too Much Confusion Here, I Can’t Get No Relief

Finally, after much hardship, Isaac and Rebecca were expecting a child. Just as Isaac had been transmitting Abraham’s teachings, ideas so profound that they would eventually lead to the creation of the Jewish people. The expectation was that Isaac and Rebecca’s child would be the next one to carry the torch. As such, Rebecca was confused about a complication during the pregnancy.And the children struggled within her, and she said, “If [it be] so, why am I [like] this?” And she went to inquire of the Lord. (Gen. 25:22)At the time, she didn’t know she had twins; she just felt pulling from side to side. Rashi notes that due to irregular (Hebrew) etymology and grammar, the interpretation presented in the Midrash explains what was happening. There was struggling when she passed by the academies of Shem and Eber, the institutions of Abrahamic teaching, but there was also struggling when she passed by a temple of idolatry. She didn’t understand; she and Isaac were not able to have children and now, miraculously, she was able to get pregnant; it didn’t make sense that the miracle of her pregnancy was amounting to this child, who seemed to be inclined toward good (the academies of Shem and Eber) and evil (idolatry); she went to Shem for an explanation.Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from within you; one kingdom will become mightier than the other, and the elder will serve the younger. And her days to give birth were completed, and behold, there were twins in her womb. (Gen. 25:23-24)This was a consolation for Rebecca because she now knew that she would be giving birth to two children with differing proclivities, rather than one confused child. Lack of clarity for what one wants in life will lead to unhappiness because until you go through the (sometimes painful) exercise of choosing what you are willing to sacrifice for-career, meaningful relationship, physical and emotional health- then you are aimlessly heading to a place you’re not even sure you want to go. For example, if health is important to you, then you will be careful what food you eat and what kind of people you socialize with. If career is crucial, you will end up missing a certain amount of partying in college when you determine it will affect your ability to study or take a test. But how does it happen that people who are clear about what they want, make poor choices?This question was answered over a thousand years ago in the classic Jewish work Duties of the Heart. The author tells us what the most powerful weapon of the yetzer hara (the negative internal voice inside every person ‘advising’ him or her to do things you (s)he will regret) is to cause you to doubt that which you already know to be true. “One more piece of cake won’t make a difference,” “being a bit tipsy and driving isn’t the same as being drunk and driving,” “even though I want to get married and the person I’m living with tells me never to bring up the subject, it will all work out.” The denial is obvious but one’s internal voice convinces the person otherwise. In the words of the Duties of the Heart:The most effective weapon the yetzer hara has in its arsenal, the one which reaches your innermost recesses, is the act of raising doubts about things you already know. That confuses you about thing that are already clear to you, and befuddles you with false ideas and faulty reasoning, which then diverts you from doing good and (even) has you doubt the Jewish religion. (Marriage is an issue affecting almost everyone-no matter what your view of it is. If you would ask someone, “Do you want the most meaningful relationship possible; one in which your partner is fully committed to you?” The answer would obviously be yes, but when you ask, “do you think you there’s a bigger possibility that you’ll find that relationship in marriage or will it be the same if you just live with the person?” Although one can find meaning and commitment by living together, doesn’t marriage show a greater commitment? Is there any doubt that, although there are no guarantees, it is designed to get to you to your goal of a deeply committed relationship more than living together? Don’t take my word for it, this obvious fact was just statistically corroborated by the Pew Research (November 6, 2019).Scott Stanley, a research professor at the University of Denver, Colorado writes the following:”But you could have 10 different couples tell you they’re cohabiting and for some of them it’s like dating with a lot of sleepovers, for others it’s a lot like marriage in terms of their intention, and for another few, which is the worst deal, it’s one person thinking it’s one thing and the other person thinking it’s not. Cohabitation doesn’t force clarity like marriage does.”It’s so clear, yet people begin doubting that which they know to be true and equate cohabitation with marriage. This is just one example but throughout our lives we remain in denial of things we know or believe in. An article about this phenomenon concludes, the “Pew study suggests that if it’s commitment you’re looking for, being married is a pair of hiking boots and living together is a pair of stilettos. Both can get you where you want to be, but only one is designed with that in mind.”When we go on the hike of life, we need to remove all doubts in the things we have identified as important to us and get into our hiking boots, even though we don’t always feel like putting them on. Good Shabbos (Sources: Nesivos Shalom, I p. 159; Chovos HaLevuvos, Shaar Yichud HaMaaseh Chapter 5; Pew Research Center, Key Findings on Marriage and Cohabitation in the U.Shttps://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/11/06/key-findings-on-marriage-and-cohabitation-in-the-u-s/; Time magazine More People Think It’s Fine for Unwed Couples to Live Together. Here’s Why Many Still Think Marriage Is Better, 11/6/19)
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 Good Shabbos
Rabbi Oppenheim
Charlotte Torah Center