Thursday, November 20, 2014

Parsha: Rivkah - Two Approaches to Finding God

Rav Turetsky

After years of infertility, Rivkah was concerned about her pregnancy. She was nervous and wanted to know what was going on inside of her. The Torah states that she went "לדרוש את ה'" , literally to search out God. (Breishit 25:22). Mefarshim debate what exactly she did in order to “find” Hashem.

Rashi (ad loc) interprets the Pasuk based on Chazal. She went to Shem, the great child of Noach, who would be able to ascertain through prophetic means how the subsequent events would unfold.  Rashbam (ad loc) similarly explains that she went to the prophets of her generation. For them, Rivkah realized her own limitations at coping with her problem. She needed to speak to someone else to gain clarity and perspective.

However, Ramban (ad loc) offers an alternate view, in which she did not search for clarity through prophecy, but through prayer. For him, it is not at all clear she went somewhere else to find Hashem.[1[ For Ramban, it seems that she prayed to Hashem directly, instead of relying on the greatness of Shem. Indeed, the Pesukim may support such an understanding, as the Pesukim continue to describe how Hashem spoke to her directly, not through a third party.[2]

On one level, each understanding highlights an alternate approach to finding Hashem. The first recognizes the need for leadership and consultation. One cannot arrive at complete truth without support from others. The second underscores the potential of one’s direct connection to Hashem, without the need to find third parties to facilitate an increased religious awareness.

However, it may be the combination of both of these approaches that leads one to religious success. A healthy balance of independence and interdependence is healthy. Recognizing one’s own limitations and need to seek outside help and perspectives is critical. But so is an awareness of one’s true capacity to directly interact with Hashem. A person who balances both approaches will be positioned to truly find God.

Shabbat Shalom!

[1] Ramban does not state that she went to Shem’s house, and, to the best of my knowledge, it is not clear within his commentary that Ramban maintains she went to Shem.
[2] See Mefarshim (Rashi, Iben Ezra, etc…) who explain that Hashem did speak to her through a third party. The simple pshat, however, may not support their view.

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