A family of four walked into a kosher deli. Everyone placed an order with the father ordering a corned beef sandwich on rye and a Cel-Rey — a flavor of Dr. Brown’s soda.
A few minutes later, the waitress returned with three beverages and a relish dish — radishes, cucumbers, carrots and celery stalks — and placed the veggies before the father.
“I didn’t order this,” he said.
The puzzled waitress replied, “Didn’t you order celery?”
What a clear example of miscommunication. Two people spoke, but they failed to connect.
In this week’s parasha, Toldot, we see just the opposite. We find a very clear example of two-way communication between Rebekah and G-d. Rebekah asks a question and G-d responds directly.
In Genesis 25:22, we read, “the children struggled in her womb.” Rebekah then asks, “Im ken, lama zeh anoci? — If so, why do I exist?” She inquires of the Lord who says, “Two nations are in your womb, two separate peoples shall issue from your body; one people shall be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.”
Rebekah, experiencing a painful pregnancy, is searching for solace and understanding — an explanation for her pain. She turns to G-d, trusting that an answer will come. And it does. For it is from this dialogue with G-d that Rebekah comes to understand the battle that is taking place within her as well as G-d’s Divine plan. Rebekah learns that Jacob needs to inherit the birthright from Isaac, not Esau, her elder son.
One can argue that it is this information that led Rebekah to deceive her husband and son. Could Rebekah have found a better way to carry out G-d’s will — one that did not involve trickery and lies? That answer could yield an entire column.
Toldot offers another example of a human being turning to G-d for help — a request that is heard and acknowledged by the Almighty. As Genesis 25:21 informs, Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his barren wife, the Lord responded, and Rebekah conceived. In this verse, we are told that G-d responded to Isaac’s plea. We see, as we did with Rebekah, that G-d hears and responds.
The encounters with G-d found in this week’s Torah portion are but two of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of interactions that G-d has with our ancestors. The Tanach (Hebrew Bible) is filled with people turning to G-d for help, answers and comfort. Entering into a dialogue with the Holy One is not a foreign activity in our tradition. Psalm 27:7 reads, “Hear, O Lord, when I call with my voice, and be gracious unto me, and answer me.” Psalm 145:18 says, “G-d is near to all who call, to all who call with sincerity.” And Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches, “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.” Each of these biblical verses enforces the notion that G-d is accessible to us. That G-d can and will be an active partner in our daily lives – if sought.
Today, our country is facing a financial crisis. People do not know from day to day if they will remain gainfully employed. The future is filled with uncertainty and concern. Let us turn to the teachings of our ancient tradition for comfort and strength. Belief in a G-d who is actively involved in our lives can be as real for us today as it was for our ancestors. This is what our tradition suggests. Judaism does not teach that G-d is unavailable or inaccessible; just the opposite is true. We are encouraged to seek and find G-d.
(This column is a service of The Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)