For the week of November 26, 2022 / 2 Kislev 5783
Torah: Bereshit/Genesis 25:19 – 28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
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And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” (Bereshit/Genesis 25:21-23)
Human life is a journey of discovery. From the beginnings of consciousness inside our mothers, we embark on a process of realization. As we encounter early sensations of feeling and the strangeness of muffled sounds, we eventually emerge from protective darkness into the brilliance of an illuminated environment. We quickly develop mentally and physically as we interpret our surroundings and try to make sense of a strange new world.
The wonders of being alive continue. Tragically for many, this process, overwhelming at times to be sure, ends far too soon. Not only at death, but for reasons deep in the psychology of self, midway through life as well. The ever-changing complexities of life and the sheer apparent infiniteness of potential experiences is far too difficult for some to absorb. They thus prefer the illusion of predictability and the false comfort that stems from closing oneself off from the meaning that arises from the unexpected.
I don’t know how much Isaac and Rebekah grasped of the great epic story they were part of. Isaac’s father Abraham surely told his son of his unusual encounters with the unseen God. Isaac, the miracle baby, endured the trauma of his father’s willingness to offer him as a sacrifice. He survived because God apparently changed his mind. He later married Rebekah due to a set of sweet providential circumstances. At least that’s how Abraham’s servant, tasked with finding his master a wife for his son, recounted the events.
Whatever was going on, it was essential for Rebekah to have children. For God’s promise to her father-in-law to come to pass, children were necessary, but it wasn’t happening—a plight I have been told happens to about twenty-five percent of all couples. While not possessing the modern techniques of our day, I am sure their culture offered a myriad of solutions for such a condition. We don’t know if they considered any of these. What we do know is that Isaac prayed to the God of his father. Not only that, but his prayer was answered. What a relief! And yet, Rebekah knew something was wrong. So, she, like her husband, prayed. From the language of the text, her request wasn’t so much about fixing her predicament, but a desire to know what was going on.
What was going on was a conflict on an international scale. Two nations were struggling within her womb. I don’t know what an ultrasound would have revealed besides two babies each within their own placenta, given they were fraternal twins. While science has opened to us a vast sphere of wonders, it cannot give access to meaning, purpose, and destiny; only God can. Rebekah’s openness to God by inquiring of him allowed her (and us) to discover the grand purposes of God hidden within her womb.
The lack of this type of inquiry among people today has narrowed the universe into a closed box of meaninglessness. Committing to view life exclusively through a materialistic lens of personal ambition and comfort has cut us off from the grand story that we are all a part of. How many people are carrying embryonic wonders (actual and metaphorical) of which they have no clue, because they refuse to inquire of the Master of the Universe as to what is going on within them.
In our day, the discomfort Rebekah experienced could be easily resolved by surgically terminating her babies. But whether or not such tools were at her disposal, she knew that what she was carrying in her body was ultimately not about her. Her ability to see beyond herself led to the insight that God gave her. Thankfully, her focus wasn’t on herself, but instead, she reached out to the only one who could provide the insight she desired.
What are we missing due to our self-focus and narrow materialistic view of life? There may be far more to the turmoil churning inside of us. What do you think would happen if we opened ourselves up to the God of Rebekah and received his insight into what is really going on in us?
Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version