Adina Morris
Adina Morris
Be a Leader & Influencer for yourself, your family and your community

Painting, potential, and powerful mothers and grandmothers

My painting of Kever Rachel
My painting of Kever Rachel

Many years ago when I was in Israel for the year studying in seminary, I was most fortunate to have my aunt and uncle living nearby in Har Nof. I would visit often. On their living room wall hung a stunning painting of Kever Rachel of long ago, with the original domed stone building. One day before Rosh Hashana, my aunt and I drove to Kever Rachel to daven before Yom Tov. It was particularly meaningful for me as it was my first time there. My aunt explained to me how her own mother passed away when she was just a young woman and she always found comfort at Kever Rachel davening with Mama Rachel. 

This painting and that memory lives on strongly in my mind’s eye. 

I have always had an affinity for painting, although I am no Picasso. When my creativity sparks, I pull out my easel, acrylics, brushes and canvas.

Although I hadn’t painted in a while, I once again picked up my brushes at the beginning of the pandemic. The image that kept coming to me was of Kever Rachel and that painting from my aunt’s apartment. 

I decided to try my hand at it. I spent weeks on just the building and then put it aside.

This week, looking for a good mental break from writing my book, I pulled out my canvas of Kever Rachel and began to paint once again.

What is it about mothers that draws us in so strongly?

Often we learn about famous and important people; but what about mothers and grandmothers? What roles do they play in the unfolding of history and the story of our people?

In Parshas Chayei Sara, we continue to learn the story of the Avos, the three fathers, and Imahos, the four mothers, with the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivka. 

The roles of the Imahos, are crucial to the moral development of the 12 tribes. They possess exemplary and sterling character, exhibiting their commitment to Hashem. This week’s Parsha shines a light on mothers and grandmothers, who find within themselves strength, courage, devotion to Hashem, and the profound ability to influence their children and grandchildren to commit themselves to Hashem.

When we are first introduced to Rivka, we are told that she is the daughter of Besuel, who is the son of Milcah, who is the wife of Nachor, who is the brother of Avraham. 

We know that the Torah only gives us necessary information. Why then, would the Torah repeat  Rivka’s grandmother’s name three times throughout the story?

But what about Rivka’s mother? While we do not know her name, we are told that Rivka runs to her Mother’s household to tell of her encounter with Eliezer, the servant of Avraham. 

According to Rashi, Rivka’s brother, Lavan, does not show himself to be the most genuine and trustworthy of characters, and Besuel, Rivka’s father, seems to be of weak character. Rashi continues that Lavan came running out to meet Eliezer when he saw all of the jewelry Rivka received, hoping there would also be gifts for him. Targum Yonason states that Besuel tried to poison Eliezer in order to thwart the marriage between Yitzchak and Rivka, however, Besuel ends up eating the poisoned food himself and dies. Which is why, we no longer hear of Besuel after the meal, and Lavan takes over as the official head of household. 

Returning to Milcah, why does the Torah keep mentioning her? She was the wife of Nachor and the sister of Sara. Nachor was Avraham’s brother, both the sons of Terach, who worshipped idols. The Ramban and Sforno both comment that Milcah is referenced in order to clarify that Rivka is the granddaughter of Nachor’s wife, Milcah, and not his concubine Reumah. What was special about Milcah in contrast to Nachor, Besuel and Lavan, that the Torah felt it was important that her role remain at the forefront of the story?

When Eliezer originally comes to the home of Besuel and Lavan, seeking Rivka’s hand in marriage for Yitzchak, Lavan states that he has cleared out the house for Eliezer in order to properly prepare a place for him. Rashi states that he cleared the house of the idols that were still found in the home of Nachor, Besuel and Lavan. Later on in Parshas Vayeitzei, when Lavan declares his oath to Yaakov in a covenant between the two, upon their departure from one another, Lavan swears by the G-d of Avraham and the god of Nachor, indicating that idol worship was still prevalent in Lavan’s home.

How is it that a Rivka could thrive in an environment with the likes of Nachor, Besuel and Lavan? Why is Milcah, her grandmother, mentioned so many times? What role did she play in shaping and influencing her granddaughter? What role did Rivka’s mother play in that Rivka ran to talk to her first, after meeting Eliezer?

While the family of Nachor, his son and grandson, Besuel and Lavan, were not worthy individuals, the women they married positively influenced their daughter and granddaughter to be righteous. 

The medrash in Sefer HaYashar in Parshas Vayeitzei, states that Rachel and Leah were the daughters of Lavan, Rivka’s brother. However, they were also the daughters of their mother Adina, who was a righteous woman. It was because of Adina’s influence that they learned to be righteous and in turn worthy to be the wives of Yaakov, and ultimately the mothers of Bnei Yisroel. 

The Haftorah for this week’s Parsha of Chayei Sara comes from the first chapter of Melachim Alef. We read about the aging Dovid Hamelech, King David, and the threat to his throne by his son, Adoniahu. Nasan HaNavi, the prophet, comes to Dovid’s wife, Bat Sheva, requesting that she go to Dovid in order to alert him to the situation. Years before, Dovid promised Bat Sheva that their son Shlomo would become the uncontested King after Dovid. This was a crucial step in establishing the Davidic Dynasty and ensuring the chain that will lead to the birth of Mashiach Ben Dovid. And now we find Adoniahu trying to usurp the throne without Dovid’s knowledge!

Bat Sheva courageously comes before Dovid with the news of Adoniahu’s plans, with Nassan coming forward to verify the story. Immediately, Dovid takes action to announce Shlomo as his heir, thereby, squashing any attempt at rebellion and securing the Davidic Dynasty.

We see how mothers and grandmothers have the ability to not only positively influence their children and grandchildren, even in the homes of unworthy brothers or uninformed fathers, but also to step forward when necessary, in order to enable their children and grandchildren to reach their potential and achieve their G-d given missions.

Our founding mothers and the women heroines throughout Tanach, show us the potential power of a mother’s and grandmother’s lasting legacy of strength, courage and devotion to Hashem.

I feel that love and strength whenever I think of that painting in my aunt’s home. And now I am grateful to have my own painting to hang in my home, to continue that legacy.

About the Author
Rebbetzin Adina Morris, CPC, PCC Executive Coach, Career and Transition Coach, Life Coach and Corporate Trainer, President of CRDL Coaching LLC in Southfield, Michigan has been successfully working with individuals for over 20 years as an educator, business entrepreneur, mentor, Executive Coach and Career and Transition Coach. In October of 2018, Adina joined Esteemed Human Development International (EHDI) as a Corporate Trainer and Coach, as well as, the Lee Hecht Harrison team as a Career Transition Coach and Consultant in December of 2018. Adina has the unique blend of experience, warmth, and passion for helping the individual navigate the challenges in their personal and professional lives. Adina is trained, certified, credentialed and insured. She is a member of the Global and Michigan chapters of the International Coach Federation (ICF). She holds a PCC level of credentialing from the ICF. Adina is also the Rebbetzin of the Young Israel of Southfield since 2002, mentors and teaches new brides and family purity classes, as well as, has a personal blog on intentional living for women at adinamorris-insightout.com . She can be reached at crdlcoaching@gmail.com
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