A Modern Midrash on Rebecca and Isaac

A Modern Midrash on Rebecca and Isaac

Author’s disclaimer: Please note that what follows is a modern, exploratory and creative midrash, centering on the events in Bereshit/Genesis 27, which was originally written in 5777 and does not necessarily reflect my current thinking and approach. In this midrash, I seek not to offer an absolutest reading, but instead to open a door of possibility. The art of the modern midrash is about emotional, spiritual and psychological inquiry. My interest in writing was to explore the inner lives of Yitzchack and Rivka, which is also as much about my evolving understanding of this episode in our Torah. This piece is written as two monologues.


When Eliezer, Avraham’s servant came to me oh those many years ago, I unknowingly—perhaps even unwittingly—fulfilled some prophecy or other by giving water to his camels. I hastily agreed to the match with Yitzchack—what else was I to do and he was a kinsman, after all. I was tired of living under my brother, Lavan’s roof. What a tyrant. Little did I know that the family trauma was not in my branch alone. Had I known this, I might have made a different choice, if there was even another choice I could make. I have so little control over my life as it is.

I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be nearly sacrificed by your own father—and for what!—love of or faithfulness to God? What kind of God is that?

Yitzchack loved me, or so says the Torah but really, I was consolation after the death of his beloved mother. I was never going to be good enough for him.

When I finally became pregnant—with twins no less—even then I was in anguish. Two nations in my womb fighting. What could I do but cry out to God in despair and anguish? If so, why me, God?

Yaakov and Esav were so different, even as children. Yitzchack loved Esav, I Yaakov.

At least that’s what the Torah tells you.

I loved both of my children equally, but I knew Esav was a bit more of a free spirit, not as responsible as Yaakov.

And I knew that as per custom, the bracha went to the eldest child. But Yaakov was more deserving. I knew if he got the bracha, all would be well in the family—maybe he would break the cycle of family trauma, marital discord, etc. Maybe our family would have a brighter future.

Yitzchack’s eyes became dim in his old age. Poor guy, already traumatized by the near-sacrifice, now losing his vision. Yitzchack’s never been a good partner for me—I suspect he lost a few marbles after the near-sacrifice.

I have so little agency. I’m stuck married to a man pining after his mother, a man so immersed in his own trauma that he cannot but repeat the cycle he knows so well, a man so not of this world that I cannot connect with him.

I have something I must do. I must give this bracha to my son, Yaakov, but I cannot because I am not the father.

All I can think to do is disguise my child.

I know it seems like a cruel, heartless thing to do—to deceive someone by using their disability, that which makes them so vulnerable against them, but I don’t know what else to do.

Am I just making excuses?

Perhaps, perhaps I am.

But I must do this thing!

Can I do it more honestly? Why do I feel like I have to spend all this time devising this deception?

There is so, so much wrong in my life and my family’s life.

How will my descendants feel, knowing that they got a bracha through deceit and trickery? What a dishonest way to be in the world.

Life has not been kind to me. I am now old in years and nearly blind. I have two sons who are so different from one another, constantly at odds. My wife and I have never really gotten along. After the death of my beloved mother, Sarah, I needed comfort, needed to know that I was loved and that I mattered, so I took Rivka into my tent and loved her and found comfort after the death of my mother.

But I never truly healed from the horrors my father nearly inflicted upon me.

I fear I am going to play that out again. I, like my father, have two sons and I, like my father, know that the younger son shall inherit what the elder is due.

There’s but one blessing to give.

I am blind. I know my two children in ways sighted parents cannot imagine, but perhaps, for some reason or other, blindness can help me.

I am getting the sense that Rivka is devising something. She believes I love Esav and not Yakov. And truthfully, yes, I do love Esav more. And I yearn for that which Esav has—the strength, the comfort in his own sense of self.

And I’ve been around long enough to know that Esav cannot move this family in the direction I need it to.

So I shall talk with Rivka, make it look like I have no idea what is going on when Yakov disguises himself. If you look closely, the Torah does note that I am not fooled by Yakov. But the Torah has to present me as foolish and that I don’t understand. Why do I never come out looking competent?
Why does the Torah have to portray me like that? And why are my descendants with disabilities so hurt? Will everyone now think that blind people are foolish? Blind does mean foolish, after all. How much pain have people endured because that word, blind, is thrown around so casually to mean stupid, ignorant? Oh God, did my actions help that awful cause?
God did I make the right choice?