PARSHAT TOLDOT: THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN HOLINESS AND IMPURITY
It’s written in the parsha: “These are the generations of Yitzhak son of Avraham: Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” (Bereishit 25). Rashi explains ‘these are the generations of Yitzhak’ and he says (paraphrasing) that this is referring to Yaakov and Eisav who are spoken about in the parsha.
The first principle or foundation that we need to know from this parsha is that this parsha deals with the generations of all of Am Yisrael by way of remezim, hints. Therefore, Rashi explains that Yaakov and Eisav, who are spoken about in the parsha, that Yaakov is the branch and root of all of the generations of kedusha, or holiness, and that Eisav is the branch and root of all the tumah (spiritual impurity).
THE WAR BETWEEN TUMAH AND KEDUSHA
This is an aspect of: “Hashem made this, and Hashem made that” [i.e. He created things in opposing pairs], and all of the war between tumah and kedusha, until the time the holy Moshiach is revealed, is hinted to in this parsha.
The parsha speaks about Rivka’s pregnancy. At first, it’s written that Rivka was barren and that she conceived via the prayers of Yitzhak. And about the time of her pregnancy, it’s written: “The children struggled inside her, and she said: ‘if so, what’s going to be with me?’ And she went to ask Hashem.” (Bereishit 25:2).
Rivka went to ask through nevua, prophetic powers, why the children were struggling in her womb. Chazal ask a question about this in the midrash: “What was so disturbing to Rivka that she had to go and ask prophets?” Rashi brings two explanations for this. ‘And they struggled’ – Rashi explains that this passage forces us to explain it, because, stam, what is this ‘struggling’ referring to? And then it’s written: ‘If so, what’s going to be with me?’
Our rabbis explained that the language of ritza, struggling / running, means that when she went past the Torah institutions of Shem and Ever, Yaakov used to ‘run’ to try to get out. And that when she went past the places of idol worship, that Eisav would struggle to get out.
Alternatively, this word ‘to struggle / run’ means to struggle against someone else, meaning they used to argue about who would inherit both worlds. Rashi explains that ‘if so’ – i.e. that she’s experiencing this great pain during her pregnancy, ‘what’s going to be with me?’ – she was begging and praying about her pregnancy.
WHAT’S GOING TO BE?
Rashi continues: ‘she went to ask for help via prophetic powers’ – that Rivka went to the beit midrash (study house) of Shem, ‘to ask Hashem’ – so that he’d tell her what would be at the end of the matter.
The first explanation tells us that Rivka didn’t understand what was going on in her stomach, what sort of babies she was going to give birth to, whether they would be from the side of kedusha, or from the side of tumah. The second explanation, is that they were fighting with each other, and having all these arguments, opinions, and bitter disagreements from both the side of tumah and the side of kedusha. So Rivka went to ask the prophets what was going on.
And the prophets told her: “You have two nations inside you, as the verse says: ‘nation will struggle against nation, and the older one will serve the younger’” – meaning that the children that will be born to you will be heads of nations, but each one with go on his own path, this one to the side of kedusha and this one to the side of tumah.
WE ALSO HAVE THAT STRUGGLE INSIDE OF US
We need to think about the deep import of these matters. What’s the meaning behind what’s written in the parsha that: ‘the children struggled inside her’. What does this hint to us?
First of all, we need to know that the imahot, the Matriarchs, they are the secret of the Shechina (Hashem’s Divine presence), and everything that they went through reflected the circumstances of the Shechina, and all of the circumstances that Am Israel also experienced.
What’s the simple explanation of the word ‘Shechina’? The Shechina reflects the way Hashem acts in the world, and how Hashem runs the world, and in particular, how He guides Am Yisrael. This is all called the ‘circumstances’ of the Shechina.
The parsha is telling us, essentially, that there will be a time of the ‘footsteps of Moshiach’ before the redemption when this struggle between the two ‘children’ inside of us will occur. Our entire test will be an aspect of ‘the children struggling inside her’ – [i.e. we’ll be torn between wanting kedusha and wanting tumah].
Adapted and translated from Al Parshat Drachim, by Rav Ofer Erez