Parashat Toldot describes Rebecca, the wife of Isaac. Despite coming from a family of deceivers, she epitomizes verse 2.2 in Song of Songs, as a “lily among brambles” because of her good deeds and inner virtues.
Dr. Tamar Kadari, Dean of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, reminds us how Rebecca’s example can empower us to determine our own paths in life.
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Parashat Toldot tells us about Isaac, who married Rebecca when he was 40 years old. But, who is Rebecca? What kind of family did she come from? We know about her family, a family of deceivers. Is she worthy of this righteous man?
The Midrash evokes Rebecca in the Song of Songs, as a “lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.”
The beloved wants to describe his true love. She has a good fragrance and aroma, but the thorns have no scent. She is pleasant and beautiful; they are prickly. She is so pretty but they are dull.
And so, Solomon describes his true love to us.
This is a literal understanding of the verse, yet the Midrash wants to emphasize something else.
The Midrash says that Rebecca came from a family of deceivers. Her father, Betuel was a deceiver, her brother Laban was a cheat and the people of her village were also deceivers. But Rebecca stood up and stood out in her righteousness, just like a lily among brambles.
The Midrash wants to emphasize her personality, her good deeds, her inner virtues. I think this Midrash wants to encourage people to act individually, to determine their own path and way in life. A person does not have to be affected by his surroundings, he has to be like Rebecca, who was like a lily among brambles.
Tamar Kadari is the Dean of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and a lecturer for Midrash and Aggadah. She received her PhD in Midrashic literature from Hebrew University and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at The University of Pennsylvania. In 2009 Dr. Kadari received a grant from the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF) to head a research group preparing a critical edition of Song of Songs Rabbah. Her research interests include biblical women in the eyes of the rabbis, aesthetics and beauty in rabbinic literature and literary readings of midrash. Dr. Kadari is also a sculptor whose work has been exhibited in galleries in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.