Kenneth Brander
Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

Taking the Initiative In Our Lives and Transforming Jewish Destiny

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Rivkah, the middle matriarch, in many ways, the quietest of the lot. Throughout the entire time that Rivkah is on the biblical stage, she barely talks.

Only once does Rivkah communicate with Yitzhak – after they are married. (Genesis 27:46)

Yet in many ways, she is the most impactful of the matriarchs.

It is Rivkah who decides the destiny of Avraham and Sarah and Yitzhak, the legacy of the monotheistic family, that the family’s birthright should be driven by Yaakov, and not Eisav. (Genesis 27:5-29)

Unlike with Sarah and Avraham – where God confirms that Yitzhak is the continuity of their legacy, “כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע”, “it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you” (Genesis 21:12) – there is no such overt communication to Rivkah. There’s a little hint, but no such overt communication.

Rivkah shares with all of us the power of initiative.

When she meets Eliezar at the well and gives him to drink, and then takes the initiative to water his camels and offer him and his camels lodging. (Genesis 24:18-25)

She’s not sent away to marry Yitzhak, but she takes the initiative for such a life journey.

“ויקראו לרבקה”, they called to Rivkah, “ויאמרו אליה, התלכי עם האיש הזה?”.

“Do you want this journey? Do you want to get married to Yitzhak?”

“ותאמר אלך”

She responds with “אלך”, “eilech” (Genesis 24:58), with the exact code word found with Avraham, when he begins his initiative of “לך לך”, “Lech Lecha”. Only this time, it is not God requesting the taking of the initiative, but Rivkah is doing it on her own.

When Rivkah becomes pregnant and it is uneasy, she takes the initiative to try to find out why.

“ותלך לדרוש את”
She went to inquire of God
(Genesis 25:22)

She goes out seeking God, and therefore God speaks to her and not Yitzhak.

And when the blessings are being discussed between her husband, Yitzhak, and her son, Eisav, Rivkah takes the initiative to trick her husband, and for Jacob to receive the first set of blessings. (Genesis 27:6-17)

And there’s a price she pays for that – she loses her relationship with both of her children, and indeed, those blessings don’t fully come true.

When her warring children might harm each other, she once again takes the initiative to separate them. (Genesis 27:42-45)

Like Esther and Ruth, she is a woman who is a leader, not by her words, but through her initiative. And by doing so, she transforms the reality around her.

Rivkah is a reminder to all of us that we, too, can change the reality around us, whether it’s the way we interact with the pandemic, whether it’s the way we engage with our family, our initiatives can transform the global world and our personal world because of our activities.

Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 30 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.
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