Community Rabbi Corner, Nov. 29, 2019

Rabbi Marc Katz
Temple Ner Tamid
Bloomfield, NJ
Parashat Toldot

This week’s portion begins as Rebecca and Isaac face childlessness. Not knowing what else to do, the two climb a mountain a entreat God to bless them with a family.  
As the story goes, God hears their cry. Rebecca becomes pregnant, but her tranquility does not last for long. Immediately the Bible tells us that the children struggled in her womb. Jacob and Esau were soon to be born but even in utero they were causing her trouble and pain.  
Looking up at God, Rebecca cries out five heart wrenching words: 
Im-Ken Lama Zeh Anochi 
If this is so, then why I am alive? 
For centuries, our rabbis have argued about what exactly Rebecca meant by these words. While some saw them as bemoaning her physical pain and others as a fear of losing her babies, I think her cry is about something much more raw and revealing. 
Rebecca has hoped her whole life for a child. However, she realizes in that moment that her path toward motherhood will remain complicated and messy. She knows she has to reassess, to redefine her life purpose. Pondering, “Why am I alive?” is the first steps toward that aim.  
Each of us, like Rebecca, have in mind a certain life mission, a purpose for which we are created. For some it is to be a parent, for others to bring more love to the world, still for others it is to make the world better. But often, our life circumstances force us to redefine that mission. When life throws us off course, our goal should not be to bemoan our trials, but rather to double down on the sacred task of defining our purpose. Often the greatest step we can take when we reach challenges to examine, once again, why we are alive.