Monday, December 07, 2009

a Freudian Rashi

The Torah describes the death and burial of Devora, the nursemaid of Rivka, as a means of hinting that Rivka herself had died. Rashi (35:8) asks why the Torah does not openly tell us of Rivka’s death; he answers that Rivka’s death was kept quiet so that people would not curse the womb which produced Eisav.

Why would people tarnish Rivka’s memory by only recalling that she brought Eisav into the world and ignoring the rest of the story? Rivka was also the mother of Ya’akov, not only Eisav. In fact, it was Rivka who even more than Yitzchak showed her affection for Ya’akov. R’ Shteinman in his Ayeles haShachar points out that this is human nature -- we harp on the faults of others and neglect and ignore the good. Sad, but so very true.

Rav Shteinman further asks why people would blame Rivka for Eisav’s faults and actions? And why only her and not Yitzchak? Rashi preceded Freud by a good many years, but I cannot resist answering R’ Shteinman’s kashe by pointing to the old psychoanalytic standby used to explain abnormal behavior -- “It’s all your mother’s fault.” Whether there is truth to it or not I don’t know, but it certainly is a sentiment that has entered our cultural psyche (no pun intended). Is that a result of the popularization of psychoanalysis, or has the trend to blame mothers for the ills of society been around much longer?

10 comments:

  1. Notice the parent being blamed is the one who focused on the other brother. It may not be about motherhood in particular as much as her giving up on Esav.

    Kind of like the blame Chazal accord Yaaqov for hiding Dinah from him.

    -micha

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  2. Micha beat me to it :)

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  3. Interesting... I hadn't thought of that.

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  4. "Notice the parent being blamed is the one who focused on the other brother. It may not be about motherhood in particular as much as her giving up on Esav." I understand it differently. As Yitzchak was a tzaddik ben tzaddik (whose tefilla was the one answered for the children) the assumption of people would be that the son who is bad gets his "bad blood" from the mother's side. In fact, Chazal say to look at a woman's brother to determine her worth as a wife, and Rivka's brother was Lavan.

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  5. Anyway it's always the mother . . .until the wife enters the picture. Then it becomes the wife's fault. ;-)

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  6. >>>the assumption of people would be that the son who is bad gets his "bad blood" from the mother's side.

    This is how R' Shteinman explains the Rashi as well, so you are in good company (or should I say R' Shteinman is in good company? ; )

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  7. It is funny you mention the wife, Ariella because Rashi on Breishis 36:3 says something that I think would be relevent. He says that When Eisav Married Yishmael's daughter his sin's were forgiven. That is why her name was changed to Machalat, from the shoresh of Machol, to forgive.

    Perhaps what was going on here was that Rivkah failed in getting Eisav to become righteous, but his wife succeeded. Maybe that is why they would curse Rivkah, because she gave up even though there was still hope.

    athis oculd also teach a valuable lesson. A person should never give up on a close one until all hope is absolutely lost, otherwise they will be held accountable for their giving up when there still is hope. Kol Yisroel Areivim zeh l'zeh.

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  8. Kimchis, in Yoma 47a, was assumed to be responsible for her seven Kohanim Gedolim sons. Many ask, who says it was her zechus, maybe it was her husband's? My favorite answer is that Chazal knew her husband, and it was obvious to them that it was Kimchis' zechus. Others say that the seven sons were from two marriages, and since she was the common denominator, it was likely that she was the reason. I would say that it is pashut that the mother determines the spiritual level of the house. Ishto zu Beiso.

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  9. Interesting, Barzilai, if she had 2 husbands, they both would have had to have been kohanim who were in line for the kehuna gedola. Maybe the assumption would be that the father would be satisfied with just one son carrying on in his footsteps, while the mother wants to see each one of her sons equally distinguished. That's on a simpler psychological level. From a more kabalistic view, there probably is some connection between keeping her hair utterly hidden and her sons getting to enter into the place that is off limits and hidden to everyone else.

    I claim no merit for my own son. I attribute it to my husband's shimush talmid chacham as the designated airport driver.

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