Halacha for Friday 4 Kislev 5784 November 17 2023

Parashat Toldot

A ma’amar from HaRav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, Maran’s zt”l grandson
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

Why Did Rivkah Appear to Regret the Pregnancy She so Desperately Wanted? And How People Were Saved from Hamas Through Prayer, Torah-study and Mitzvot!

It states in this week’s Parashah, concerning Rivkah Imeinu, that after Yitzchak Avinu prayed for her, she merited to become pregnant. Due to the difficult pregnancy, she realised that she was pregnant with twins and then it states, “But the children clashed inside her, and when this occurred, she asked, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ She went to seek a message from Hashem” (Bereisiht 25:22). Rashi explains that Rivkah said that if pregnancy is so painful, “Why is this happening to me?”, why am I yearning and praying to become pregnant?

However, it is extremely difficult to comprehend, for if Rivkah was barren and pleaded so much to Hashem that she merit a pregnancy, if so, even if now she endures great pain, it doesn’t make sense that she would now want the pregnancy to come to an end! Many women suffer until they merit to become pregnant, and even then, they suffer throughout the months of pregnancy, but G-d-for-bid that they would request that the pregnancy end. If so, concerning Rivkah the tzadeket, who desired children in order to establish the chain of Am Yisrael, it is certainly inconceivable to suggest that she wanted the pregnancy to cease with no positive outcome!

Rabbeinu Chaim ben Atar z”l (1696-1743) explains this very well. Indeed Rivkah prayed to become pregnant, but understandably she wanted the pregnancy to succeed and that it should culminate with a birth. However, when she saw that the children inside her were “clashing”, from the expression “crushing”, that each was pushing the other, she understood that apparently her pregnancy won’t last at all. This was contrary to the natural course of events, where twins are comfortable with one another and don’t push each other aside. She sensed that it was as if there was a “war” in her womb, and therefore she was astonished, why did she merit to such a pregnancy, which will end in disappointment?

Therefore she went “to seek a message from Hashem”, she went to ask them [the monotheistic chachamim of that time] to pray for her, and for them to inform her what will be at the end of the pregnancy, for if not, why is “this” “happening to me”, meaning, it was as if she was pointing at her stomach and saying, why “this”? What is this pregnancy for anyway? [This is because when the Hebrew word “zeh” - “this” is used it often denotes pointing at something, see Rashi Shemot 12:2.] And then when she asked about it in Shem’s Bet HaMidrash, Hashem answered her, that two nations are in her womb and therefore they push each other. However, the end of the pregnancy will succeed and she will indeed merit to achieve a good birth lechaim tovim u’leshalom.

We must consider what we may learn from the tzadeket Rivkah. When she wanted the pregnancy, she stood with her husband and prayed with him to Hashem that He grant her a pregnancy. However, when she was in great distress, that the children were clashing [lit. crushing] in her, and it appeared as if the attribute of justice was stretched over her, she understood that she was required to do something specific. She should increase her prayers in a special way and so “She went to seek a message from Hashem”, to study and understand what she must do to improve her current situation.

Two weeks ago, we heard the news about one of the women (Uri bat Margalit, may Hashem Yitbarach give her chaim tovim) who had been held captive by the wicked Hamas murders and who was released [by the IDF]. After she was released, her father and mother, who are precious people with pure belief, as is the way of the Bnei Edut HaMizrach, in whose hearts burns like fire the love of Hashem, her parents stood and explained how they merited to such a great miracle, that out of all the captives their daughter was the first to be freed and to the extent that she is healthy and complete, Baruch Hashem? How may this be explained? Especially when it is considered that many of the relatives of the captives, have acted in every way to get their relatives back, through efforts via the State and similar avenues, yet this family, didn’t engage in any such activity, yet despite this, they were the first to merit a salvation, in a way that is almost elevated out of the natural order of things, since no soldier or captive was injured, not during captivity and nor through the release. What is the secret of the matter?

When her mother stood before the media, she opened by saying, “With thanks to Creator of the World, there is no one like Him!”

During a period of three weeks the family of the captive woman ran around, and what did they do? They acted in the most advantageous way, through prayer and supplicating “tears in a great measure” [see Tehillim 80:6], in a way that would increase merits. Her family strengthened in Sabbat observance, they arranged for the mitzvah of separating challah and many prayers for women with tears and supplications. They brought a brand new Sefer Torah into their home via their daughter’s bedroom. They invited tens of avreichim to her room so that they would be inspired to pray for her. They paid and made every effort so that those avreichim would diligently study Torah near her home. They went to well-known rabbanim and sought their blessings. They literally made a “demonstration”! But not a demonstration before people “decision makers”, but a demonstration before the One who said “let the world come into being”! They shook worlds, they turned over worlds, they shook the “doorposts many feet” [see Yeshayahu 6:4] in the upper worlds. Prayers such as these, which come from the depths of the heart, with excessive actions to arouse mercy. These prayers were really received! The salvation has come.

We learn what the power of prayer is. Especially what the power of a special awakening is. When a person is found in a particular difficulty they pray and pray, and if G-d-for-bid they see that the difficulty worsens and they enter a greater distress, they must understand, that not only is now not the time to give up and to despair and neglect prayer, but rather, they must add and add merits and prayers, to increase unrelentlessly in appeals for mercy, until Hashem will hearken to the prayers and forgive and have compassion and be merciful!

Hashem Yitbarach, is good and does good to all! Even when, due to our many sins, harsh decrees come, Hashem still hears our prayers! Indeed we heard about one woman, from a kibbutz, who didn’t keep any mitzvot, yet at the time of the terrorist attack she took shelter in a miklat and many miracles, miracles of miracles happen to her. The terrorists didn’t succeed to break through the door despite having shot at it, (and inside her house they set up for themselves an outpost from which they fought the Israeli soldiers), and she had water and a blanket, and she managed to escape at the right time through the bedroom window. When they asked her what happened? She replied, I prayed to Hashem in every way that I knew, I called to Him with every word that I know, “Hashem”, “HaKadosh Baruch Hu”, “Elokim”, “Rebbi”, in every way, I supplicated and supplicated, for hours on end I sat and supplicated to Hashem that He protect me and I didn’t know that I was such a believer in Hashem, and I literally felt how from Heaven they protected me.

We see how even in the great obscurity, during times of horrific darkness, Hashem’s kindness hasn’t expired, for “nor are His mercies exhausted”! [see Eicha 3:22]. Especially when we are found in a war against a lowlife nation, which are the Arabs around us. As it is explained in the Gemara (Ketubot 66b), that even if individuals, due to our many sins, are ensnared with them, nevertheless, Hashem doesn’t chas veshalom hand over all of Am Yisrael into the hands of a lowlife nation (as they explained in Hagigah 13b). We must strengthen and remember that “Salvation is Hashem’s” (see Tehillim 3:9) may it be His will that Am Yisrael merit to a complete teshuvah, returned and rested!

From Heaven above may Hashem have mercy, that we may hear good news, salvation and comfort, “Tziyon will be redeemed through justice, and those who return to her through righteousness” [see Yeshayahu 1:27).

Shabbat Shalom!

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