This week's portion is Toldot. When most people read Toldot they focus on the relationship between Esau and Jacob. Of course I understand why, the bulk of the Torah portion is about them and there is much to learn about the differences between Esau and Jacob, as well as how their parents respond to them.
But this week what struck me more than anything else were the first few sentences:
"And Isaac prayed to the Lord opposite his wife because she was barren, and the Lord accepted his prayer, and Rebecca his wife conceived."
My interest is in the many different views of this sentence.
The New International Version:
Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.
The JPS Tanak Version:
Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord responded to his plea, and his wife Rebekah conceived
In my mind the ideas behind these different version can be quite stark. The idea that Isaac prayed opposite his wife shows a firm and true commitment. An understanding of the joint anguish a couple can feel at not becoming pregnant.
It took my mother over seven years to become pregnant. It wasn't an easy journey for her, or for my family. In that time, however, I think that my father viewed it as more of my mother's problem. I might be wrong, but that's my intuition based upon the conversations I had with my mother before she passed.
I have several friends who are currently pregnant and it's often difficult to see the transition from wife to mother in the girl, and yet a lack of transition from husband to father in the man. He's not quite but sort of a father. But the moment that she knows there is another life inside of her the wife and woman has become a mother. Her choices aren't her own- from lunch to dinner to sleep and emotions.
So when I saw it Toldot that Isaac prayed opposite Rebecca it seemed amazing. That together they took the mantle of becoming a family upon them both. Then, unfortunately, it gets sad.
the Lord accepted his prayer and Rebecca his wife conceived.
It seems incredible that G-d would accept his prayer and not hers. I choose to believe in the positive side of the discussion. That for many years Rebecca had been anguished and wanting a child. Then when two became one and prayed opposite each other to G-d, declaring seperately and together that they wanted to make a family, then G-d answered.
I know to many women, to many families struggling to make the family they always envisioned. If this is a testament to them at all, read inside the story that standing together as a couple, as future parents might make all things possible.
How do you read Toldot this week?