A Yiddishe Mamma

Thursday, 1 December, 2016 - 11:03 pm

Morris and Miriam, both a bit stubborn, were involved in a petty argument, both of them unwilling to admit they might be in error.

"I'll admit I'm wrong," Miriam told her husband in a conciliatory attempt, "if you'll admit I'm right."

Morris agreed and, like a gentleman, insisted she go first.

"I'm wrong," Miriam said.

With a twinkle in his eye, Morris responded, "You're right!"


Dialogue between spouses is as ancient as humanity itself.  Yet, in this week’s parsha, Toldot, we find a startling lack of such dialogue.  When Rivka (Rebecca) hears that her husband Yitzchak (Isaac) is planning to bless their oldest son Eisav (Esau), she immediately devises a plan to surreptitiously help Yaakov (Jacob) – her younger, preferred son – receive the blessings instead.

We are all familiar with the cunning scheme through which Yaakov, disguised in Eisav’s clothing and goatskin, succeeds in obtaining his father’s special blessings.

But, the obvious question is, why didn’t Rivka simply discuss this with Yitzchak? She could have easily conveyed the message that she felt Yaakov more deserving of the blessings.

In fact, this is precisely what her mother-in-law Sarah did many years earlier in a similar situation.  Agitated by the unbecoming conduct and negative influence of Yishmael on her son Yitzchak, she begged Avraham to banish Yishmael from the house.  Avraham, after Divine consultation, agreed to her request. Why didn’t Rivka employ a similar intervention?


The Torah describes Yaakov as the studious, disciplined and sincere son. Eisav, on the other hand, is aggressive, impatient and materialistic.  Twins from the womb, they could not be more dissimilar. Yaakov has come to embody the traits that are extolled by our tradition – a focus on spirit, intellectual pursuit and higher standards.  Eisav personifies the greedy and power-hungry world around us.

Throughout most of our history, the Jewish people – preyed upon by our enemies – have identified with the Yaakov model.  Nations plundered and attacked, while we concentrated on our values and contributions to society. But, as the modern world grew to embrace and welcome Jews into society, the lines have become blurred.  The modern Jew is one who may be at ease with the Eisav mentality; who sees the world through the prism of Eisav’s attitudes and aspirations.

Is such a Jew part of the Jewish people? Does our shared destiny rest in the hands of Jews who proudly call themselves secular and are raised with values not necessarily associated with Judaism? What should our attitude be toward Jews who seem more like Eisav than Yaakov?


According to the great Chassidic Master Rabbi Yitzchak Meir of Ger, this was precisely Rivka’s concern.  If she would convince Yitzchak to bless Yaakov, the only Jew receiving the blessing would be the historical definition of a Jew. Jews who remained loyal to Judaism, both inside and out, would flourish.  But the Jew who begins to identify with Eisav, would be lost from our people.

True, Yaakov deserved the blessings. And, a pure Eisav’s ownership of the blessings would taint them forever. But, what of the Jews of several millennia later, who may look like Eisav, but share Yaakov’s essence?

To this end, Rivka devised a plan that would include all Jewish people.  By dressing Yaakov in the garb of Eisav, she guaranteed that generations of Jews – even those that may not display any signs or postures of Judaism – would always remain a part of our people.

Now, that’s a real Yiddishe Mamma.

Comments on: A Yiddishe Mamma

Chuck Gabbitas wrote...

šŸ‘ yes real yiddishe!!!
šŸ‘ very good yiddishe!!!