Rivka had a difficult pregnancy and was frequently pained by her unborn children hitting her. One particular time, she lamented:
‘וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ הַבָּנִים, בְּקִרְבָּהּ, וַתֹּאמֶר אִם-כֵּן, לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי; וַתֵּלֶךְ, לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה – The children struggled within her, and she said, “This is what it is? Why is this happening to me?” And she went to inquire of the Lord. (25:22)
People have difficult pregnancies, and the baby kicks too much; it’s pretty common. Yet more than just experiencing physical discomfort, Rivka seems emotionally troubled and has some soul searching to do, so she asks for help.
What was so difficult that she had to seek out answers?
We have the benefit of knowing how the story unfolds. At this point in the story, Rivka did not yet know that she was having twins!
Our sages suggest that each time Rivka walked past a holy site, she would feel her belly stir, and each time she walked past a place of pagan worship, she would feel more stirring. Without knowing it would be two children with different inclinations, it just seemed like one very confused individual!
R’ Chaim Brown suggests a compelling reading. When Moshe reviewed the Torah in his final speech to the people, he told them:
רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָֽה – See how I place before you a blessing and a curse… Good and Evil! (11:26)
The simple explanation is that there is always a good and a bad choice, and we must be careful to choose wisely. But there is a more profound implication as well.
It is not simply a choice of what we want to do, but also a matter of who we want to be. What identity will we take up? What kind of אָנֹכִי, the archetypal “I,” will we choose to become?
In the context of to Rivka’s frustration, she cried – לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי – where is the אָנֹכִי of this long-awaited promised child? He likes sanctity and idolatry!
Understanding the depth of her question, we can plumb the depths and meaning in the answer when the oracle replied to her, that שְׁנֵי גֹיִים בְּבִטְנֵך – it is not one confused child, there will be two children with two separate identities! And she was comforted, and the story continues.
Your personal choices are the choices that shape your personality. Every choice aligns you closer towards or further from the person you’ve always wanted to be.