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Mother Knows Best

by Rabbi Benyomin Adilman


Library » History » Patriarchs, 12 Tribes | Subscribe | What is RSS?


And Jacob left from Be'er Sheva and went to Haran.1

The Midrash Rabbah2  offers a number of interpretations of the phrase "And Jacob left from Be'er . . . " One interpretation is truly amazing.

Rebbe Brachya said that he left from the well of blessings. Jacob fled from Esau so that Esau would not corner him and contend that he took his blessings through deceit. "Then", said Jacob, "all of the efforts of my mother would have been for nothing." This Midrash needs explanation.

Rebecca, the mother of Jacob and Esau, was a singular figure in our history. Rebecca was always clear-headed and focused. She always knew exactly what to do.

When Eliezer, the servant of Abraham went to Haran to find a wife for Isaac, he reasoned that only a young lady who exemplified the quality of chesed would be fitting to join the household of Abraham. So he devised his plan, whereby he would request water to drink. If she also offered to water the camels, that would be a sign of her true quality of chesed.

But how would such chesed mesh with the stern gevurah of Isaac? Maybe Eliezer should have looked for a young lady who more exemplified gevurah?

Rebecca was always clear-headed and focused. She always knew exactly what to do
In the second circuit of Simchat Torah, which is the circuit of Isaac, we call out "Resplendent in attire, grant us success" (in Hebrew, "Hadur Bil'Vusho, Hatzlicha Na"). "Hadar", "resplendent", is an aspect of gevurah. Here the gevurah is called "attire", something which only enclothes that which is underneath, but is not that thing itself. The gevurah of Isaac turns out to be only a garment, not his essence, as it is written, "How abundant is Your goodness, which You have hidden for the ones who fear You!"3

Rebecca's incredible chesed overshadows her gevurah. She always knew what to do. She never entertained any doubts. When she met Eliezer, she knew to water his camels despite the time and energy it would take, and despite the fact the he had his own water jugs. When he asked her numerous questions about her family, she knew to answer each one in the proper order. When her mother and brother asked her if she would agree to go back with Eliezer to become the wife of Isaac, she answers in one word, "Elech!" ("I will go.")

When she was barren she knew to pray to G-d, and she knew the right prayer. When she felt the bickering in her belly, she knew that this was not the quality of the Tzadik that she was supposed to give birth to. She went to the sages to inquire and was relieved to find out that she was going to have twins. One would indeed be a tzadik, one not. When she heard that Isaac was going to bless Esau first, she again knew just what to do. Without any wavering, she prepared Jacob to receive the blessings instead. This quality of gevurah underlies the chesed which we normally associate with Rebecca.

Rebecca was gevurah enclothed by chesed. Isaac was chesed enclothed by gevurah. That is indeed a match. Jacob, being tiferet, was the true progeny of the union of Isaac and Rebecca.

Understanding this, Jacob thought to himself, "How can I let my mother's efforts go to waste? As always, she did what was proper and necessary. There should be no question in my mind as to whom the blessings of our father belong." So Jacob fled to Haran, with the blessings still intact.

Republished from


  • 1. Gen. 28:10.
  • 2. Gen. 68:7.
  • 3. Psalms 31:20.


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Rogue son of Patriarch Isaac and Matriarch Rebecca. Elder twin of Patriarch Jacob.
Second of the Jewish Matriarchs. Wife of the Patriarch Isaac, and father of Jacob. b. 1675 BCE, d. 1553 BCE.
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzadikim). A saint, or righteous person.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.