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A Mamma's Marching Orders

Friday, 29 November, 2019 - 9:56 am

Ever meet someone you know at the most awkward time or place?

As a Rabbi, I sometimes visit Jewish inmates.

Chabad Shluchim across the globe reach out to Jews in the most isolated and desperate circumstances. As Chanukah approaches, we reinforce our mission to reach out with love to every Jew.

People often ask me why I bother to visit those that have failed society.

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I remember once sitting in the waiting area. Suddenly, someone I know walks in. I immediately tried to divert my attention so as not embarrass them. But, the immediate question we each had for each other would be, “What are you doing here?!”

Meeting someone else in a compromised situation reminds me of a story in this week’s parsha.

Parshat Toldot tells the story of the birth of Yaakov and Eisav. Rivka, their mother, was experiencing pain during pregnancy. She was troubled by the pain and sought out counsel from G-d. Unbeknownst to her, she was carrying twins.

The Torah puts in this way: “And the children struggled within her, and she said, "If it be so, why am I like this?" And she went to inquire of the Lord.”

Rashi, quoting the Midrash, offers that, “when she passed by the entrances of the Torah academies of Shem and Eber, Yaacov would run and struggle to come out; when she passed the entrance of a temple of idolatry, Eisav would run and struggle to come out.” Essentially, she was troubled at the strange character of her fetus. Why does my baby equally desire Torah and idolatry?

She was consoled with the knowledge that he baby was not suffering from a split personality. Rather, there were two babies inside – each with his own agenda.

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But, this leads us to a greater question: Why, in the first place, was Rivka frequenting the houses of idolatry?!

The answer is fascinating and riveting.

The truth is that Rivka was on a mission. She was a pioneer. Together with her husband, she was continuing the legacy of Avraham and Sarah. It wasn’t enough to offer faith in G-d to the converted masses. It wasn’t enough to preach to the choir. Rivka insisted on going to the belly of the beast – notwithstanding the bulge in her own belly – in order to teach the truth.

Although there was great spiritual risk to Rivka – and her unborn children – if she could help one person, it would all be worth it.

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The name of the parsha, Toldot, means offspring. We are the offspring, the inheritors of Rivka’s tradition – and her mandate. It isn’t enough to teach those who line up outside our doors. It isn’t sufficient to answer the requests of those that seek our help – material or spiritual.

We must be students of Rivka. We need to go out – even at enormous personal risk and inconvenience – to help others.

That’s the marching orders from our Mamma.

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