Parsha Toldos opens by informing us “And Yitzchak was 40 years old when he took Rivka, the daughter of Besuel, the Aramite, from Padad Aram, the sister of Lavan, the Aramite, for himself for a wife. (Parsha Toldos, Breish’t Perek 25, posuk 20) Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his Sefer, “Growth Through Torah” writes that although Rivka was both the daughter of and sister of wicked people, “nevertheless, she did not learn from their evil behavior.” She did not emulate their evil.
Rabbi Pliskin then speaks about how many people try to excuse their own faults by blaming others as the cause of their behavior. “It’s not my fault that I have this bad trait, I learned it from my parents.” “I’m not to blame … since my brothers and sisters do it also.” “Everyone in my neighborhood does or does not do it, so how could I be any different?” It’s a rationalization for maintaining the bad trait or habit.
The unfortunate thing is that many take their midos and darchim as normal and correct; after all everyone else is doing it… And so they don’t give a second thought and don’t stop to think as to whether, although others do a certain thing, that it is normal, i.e. a merchant/consumer relationship, that there might be a moral or derech issue involved. Thus, the consumer question unasked and passed over, or the important piece of information not conveyed from seller to buyer resulting in completion of a transaction for defective merchandise because the buyer didn’t ask a question, didn’t know to ask the question or didn’t see merchandise sufficiently and accepted an incomplete or inaccurate explanation and the seller knowingly misrepresented the item up for purchase. This is a big problem which even extends to today’s world of internet and online buying. Regrettably so, as it often relates to religious merchants selling online.
We learn from Rivka that regardless of the faulty nature of one’s nurture, or of the society in which one is surrounded, one has the ability to elevate one’s self above the common nature of the society which surrounds him. Rabbi Pliskin writes, “of course it takes courage and a lot of effort to be different. The righteous person might be considered a nonconformist and even rebellious by those in his environment whose standard of values are below his level.” (Growth Through Torah, pages 60-61) Society may even perceive a righteous, honest person as a “friar” (the Israeli term for “sucker”), one who is naive, meek, unassertive, subserviant — a “nebish” who can be used, abused, cheated, swindled without fear of redress.
Rivka, having lived in, observed and even risen above an evil environment, seemed surely to have internalized the insights gained in that environment and therefore was well positioned to observe the real-life playout of divine prophesy, ergo her urging of Yaakov to go before Yitzchak to claim the Bracha. And so, if Rivka, having come from a society where the only role models, the only frame of reference was that of common crooks, thieves and swindlers and yet she was able to elevate herself above the nature of her surroundings to a level where the Shechina once again resided over the tent of the Matriarch, then we, of an elevated Torah ethic, surely ought to have the capacity to do likewise. We, for sure, ought to have the capacity to project the application of midos of honesty, principle, Torah ethic learned in the home and the Beis Medrash onto the other aspects of our lives in treating our brethren V’Ahavta, L’Rei’echa, Kamocha, treating our brethren as we ourselves would want to be treated.
May it be in this year and in all future years, that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif — many still seeking their places, our brethren in the North who have had their lives disrupted, been displaced from their homes, their property in many cases destroyed by Katushyas, as well as our dear brother, Jonathan Pollard and the lives of the 3 captive Chayalim are central in our thoughts, prayers, chassadim and actions. May this abominable period of history called hitnatkut be as a bad dream, be retified — our brethren made whole and may hitnatkut be expunged from collective consciousness yet it’s evil never forgotten.
May we be zocha in this coming year to take giant steps toward fulfilling Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of the Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.