Nelly Shulman

On her behalf

The wording of Genesis 25:21 has been intriguing to the Torah commentators. Rivkah’s infertility causes Isaac to plead “on behalf of his wife.” The sages demonstrate here the surprisingly modern attitude. They insist that Isaac was praying while standing opposite Rivkah, thus including her in their plea to God.

However, there is another puzzling twist to the story. God answers to the plea of Isaac and not to their joint request. Since Rivkah’s prayer is not mentioned in the Torah, it would be strange to expect God to respond to it openly. On the other hand, Rashi explains this line as follows.

“of him and not of her, because there is no comparison between the prayer of a righteous person who is the son of a righteous person and the prayer of a righteous person the child of a wicked-person.”

Even though Rivkah is righteous herself, the lack of family merit makes her plea somehow less important and valuable. Isaac, who has “a direct line” to God, is much more likely to get a swift response.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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