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Just When I Thought it was Over

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Rivka left her home environment to marry Yitzchak. She did so voluntarily. Nonetheless, this was surely not an easy move for her. She is then faced with another challenge. She struggles to conceive a child whom she no doubt desperately wants. Yitzchak prays to God and Rivka conceives. The stage is set for a happy ending. However, this was not to be. Rivka has such a troubling and painful pregnancy that she gets to the point where she wonders why she wanted to fall pregnant in the first place.

She gives birth to twins. Rivka sees the righteousness of her son Yaakov and the negative nature of her son Esau. Her challenge is that her husband Yitzchak sees things very differently – he loves Esau and wants him to be his primary heir. She devises a plan to deceive her blind husband into making Yaakov his primary heir. Esau is enraged and awaits his father’s death to kill his brother Yaakov. Rivka is forced to send her son away to her father’s house for safety and to marry there. The separation could not have been easy for Rivka and based on the calculation of our sages, it seems that Rivka never saw Yaakov again. This is a brief summary of Parshat Toldot.

Yaakov’s life follows a similar pattern. He is forced to leave home and is constantly deceived by his uncle Lavan. When Yaakov leaves Lavan’s home, Lavan attempts to kill him. He has to then face Esau upon his return. Initially, Esau plans to harm Yaakov and his family; In the end, though, Esau softens his stance towards Yaakov. Yaakov’s daughter is raped and his beloved son Yosef, the apple of his eye, is abducted and separated from him for twenty-two years. Thank God for the happy ending of Yaakov reuniting with Yosef.

There is an important lesson here. Our national patriarchs’ and matriarchs’ lives were filled with challenges. Our sages teach us that what occurred to our ancestors is a mapping of what shall occur to their offspring. Have you ever noticed that just as one overcomes one particular challenge or difficult situation that another one presents itself and you say to yourself ‘When will it end? One difficult situation after the next!’ Rather than simply dealing with challenges as they arise and trying to avoid those challenges that are in our control to avoid, our disbelief and disappointment creates extra challenge and suffering. It is important for us to change our expectations and accept that this world is the world of growth and challenge. God designed it this way. The ironic thing is that this attitude of acceptance, itself, gives us the strength and peace of mind to negotiate life’s challenges more effectively. How does one know if one’s life work and challenge is over? If one is alive.