Necessity Over Nostalgia

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Toldot Silence v2

“A time to be silent, and a time to speak.”

Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved Jacob. We are very accustomed to this arrangement. Clearly, the story vindicates Rebekah. She was right all along. It seems that Isaac’s geriatric blindness was a physical manifestation of something that preventing Isaac from realizing that Jacob was his true heir.

The confounding thing to me, is that Rebekah never seems to tell Isaac that Jacob is more deserving of Isaac’s blessing than Esau. Why not have a conversation and get on the same page? Isn’t that what we would do? Isn’t that what we actually do?

If you examine the text, you’ll notice something pretty amazing. There is not a single recorded conversation between Isaac and Rebekah until Jacob must flee to Haran and then the first conversation occurs between Isaac and Rebekah. The first! Rebekah begs Isaac to prevent Esau from marrying a Hittite woman. That’s it. Isaac doesn’t even respond to his wife. He just prohibits Esau from marrying a Canaanite woman. Rebekah is not heard from again.

When Rebekah and Isaac meet for the first time, they do not speak.

A quarrel between Sarah and Abraham is recorded in the Torah. A quarrel between Rachel and Jacob is recorded in the Torah. We don’t even get an argument between Rebekah and Isaac.

When the couple settles in Gerar, Isaac does not even tell Rebekah that she is to say she is his sister. Isaac just says it to the people of Gerar inquiring about his wife. Abraham asked Sarah nicely if she would please say that she was his sister. Isaac and Rebekah never even discuss it.

It seems that a lot of heartache could have been prevented if Rebekah and Isaac would have been able to communicate. But they did not communicate and so we can assume they could not communicate. Rebekah was the invisible wife and it led to catastrophe.

Rebekah was chosen for her kindness. How often are we silent because “it’s not nice to say anything” or “it will be uncomfortable” for the other person. That’s kindness. That’s nostalgia. We don’t want to ruin the superficial peace. But sometimes it’s necessary to say speak up. Sometimes it’s better to speak and feel awkward or make another person feel awkward, than it is to protect ourselves and others from discomfort. Sometimes we need to choose necessity over nostalgia.

It’s not just about speaking up or staying silent. We often choose nostalgia. But we can not afford to choose nostalgia over necessity. We need to do what must be done even when it appears to create disharmony for a moment. But usually the sacred unity we are protected was counterfeit. It was pure nostalgia.

Choose correctly.

Necessity over nostalgia.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink is the founder of
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