Parashat Toldot: the process and the goal

Parashat Toldot begins with a very disturbing topic: infertility. Isaac and Rebekah waited for a child for 20 years. For 20 years they prayed to God for a pregnancy until God granted their wish and Rebekah gave birth to twins: Jacob and Esau.

We also came into contact with the topic of infertility with Sarah, who was infertile until she was 90, when she had Isaac. Also in the next generation, Rachel, Jacob’s wife, was infertile and waited many years before having her two sons, Joseph and Benjamin.

Other mothers in the Bible are described as infertile.

What they all had in common was that they were ultimately mothers of children who left indelible marks on history and on God’s presence in the world.

This raises the question: Why did the women around them manage to get pregnant without difficulty, while those women who were going to give birth to children marked by greatness had to first suffer the suffering and anxious anticipation? The Jewish sages offered this brief explanation: “Why were matriarchs infertile? … For the Holy One, blessed be He, desired their prayers and desired their conversation” (Genesis Raba 45: 4).

Based on the simple understanding of this explanation, the mothers of the nation were infertile because God wanted them to pray to him. There is great beauty in this explanation, but on the other hand, it seems so unfair. Did the matriarchs have to suffer for God to fulfill His wish ?! The Malbim, Rabbi Meir Leibush Wisser (Eastern Europe, 19th century), was a unique and insightful biblical commentator. Through their interpretation, the comment of the sages is seen in a new light: “Human beings who give birth to their own species are rooted in nature, just as it is rooted in nature that plants and animals they give birth to their own kind; But giving birth to something special that will bear select and sacred fruit is against nature and requires divine assistance.

Therefore, our matriarchs were infertile, because nature is not prepared by itself until the divine power appears that is awakened by prayer … ”(Malbim on Genesis 25:21).

Malbim explains that a regular birth is part of the natural life cycle; But the birth of a person of stature is a special event that requires the appearance of godly powers in the world. The way in which the power to appear in the world is awakened is through prayer, which produces Divine abundance.

TO BETTER understand Malbim’s words, we must first take a look at our lifestyle and habits today. If in the past man had to work hard to build a specific piece of furniture or to prepare a certain meal, today that process has been shortened and everything can be reached with the click of a button. If we want to see the landscape of a distant land, all we have to do is get on a plane and in just a few hours we can be at our desired destination. We have come to expect everything to happen without delay; immediate gratification.

In a world of fast food, fast travel, online shopping, we have lost our way, we have lost sight of the process.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, 1624 (credit: WIKIPEDIA)

We believe that the process is only a means to achieve a goal and, if we can avoid it, even better. We even expect natural processes to develop quickly, and when a problem arises, we find a better method to solve it.

If we delve for a moment into the phenomenon of bringing children into the world, we discover a fascinating world. In our bodies we have great power, the power to create life! The power to bring a godly soul to this world! Looking at it from this perspective, it is clear that birth is an incomparably transcendent event.

If this is true of bringing life into the world, imagine the birth of someone special, of a soul that is unique. Without a doubt, the birth of such a child requires a deep process and a physical, emotional and spiritual preparation. That is the process that the matriarchs of the nation had to go through. Prayer and deep connection with God were part of the process that allowed them to give birth to such great people.

Seeing it this way, we can learn to appreciate the path to achieving our goals, seeing it as part of the fabric of life and not just a means to reach a destination.

By doing so, we will be able to internalize that the more important the goal we strive to achieve, the longer and more complex the process we have to go through to achieve it.

The writer is the rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy places.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *