The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary

By Steven; Sarah Levy | Go to book overview

TOLEDOT

❖ Rags to Riches
The United States is known universally as the “land of opportunity.” Indeed the story of someone who starts with nothing and reaches the highest echelons of society is perhaps the quintessential and enduring American legend. In Parashat Toledot our Matriarch Rebekah provides a spiritual analogue for the rags-to-riches story:

Isaac was forty years old when he took to wife Rebekah,
daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of
Laban the Aramean. (Gen. 25:20)

Rashi explains why this verse repeats information that has already been provided—that Rebekah is from Paddan-aram and is the daughter of Bethuel and the sister of Laban:

daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan- aram, sister of
Laban
: Was it not already written that she was the daughter
of Bethuel and the sister of Laban and from Paddan-aram?
Rather, this is to relate her praise, that she was the daughter
of a wicked man and the sister of a wicked man and her place
was [inhabited by] wicked people, but she did not learn from
their conduct. (Rashi, Gen. 25:20)

While being one of the Matriarchs of the Jewish people could itself be considered the crowning achievement of one’s life, Rashi informs us that Rebekah’s attainment was even greater, because she overcame very challenging obstacles. Surrounded by wickedness in both her family and community, she managed to avoid following in their ways and instead developed into a paradigm of virtue.While excellence in many fields—professional, athletic, intellectual, personal, or otherwise—can generally be measured by objective standards, the adversity that a person surmounted to attain this distinction often remains hidden. Considering the circumstances that a person had to overcome may greatly enhance the significance of his or her achievements. The merit in overcoming adversity also seems to be acknowledged by the talmudic maxim: “In the place where baalei teshuvah [penitents] stand, even the completely righteous cannot stand” (Bavli Berakhot 34b).
Questions for Discussion
1. Describe someone you believe typifies the achievement of the American Dream. Are there factors in this person’s background that cause you to hold this achievement in even higher regard?
2. Have you ever succeeded in something that required you to overcome obstacles others didn’t face? How did these obstacles hinder your efforts, and what did you learn about facing obstacles as a result?
3. Why do you believe the Talmud teaches that even completely righteous people cannot stand with those who have become righteous through penitence? What lessons have

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The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction - Introducing Rashi xv
  • Genesis 1
  • Bere’shit 3
  • NoaḤ 6
  • Lekh Lekha 9
  • Va-Yera’ 12
  • Hayyei Sarah 15
  • Toledot 18
  • Va-Yetse’ 21
  • Va-YishlaḤ 24
  • Va-Yeshev 27
  • Mikkets 30
  • Va-Yiggash 33
  • Va-YeḤi 36
  • Exodus 39
  • Shemot 41
  • Val-‘Era’ 44
  • Bo’ 47
  • Be-ShallaḤ 50
  • Yitro 53
  • Mishpatim 56
  • Terumah 59
  • Tetsavveh 62
  • Ki Tissa’ 65
  • Va-Yak’Hel 68
  • Pekudei 71
  • Leviticus 75
  • Va-Yikra’ 77
  • Tsav 80
  • Shemini 83
  • Tazria’ 86
  • Metsora’ 90
  • ’AḤarei Mot 93
  • Kedoshim 97
  • ‘Emor 100
  • Be-Har 103
  • Be-Ḥukkotai 106
  • Numbers 111
  • Be-Midbar 113
  • Naso’ 116
  • Be-Ha’Alotekha 120
  • ShelaḤ-Lekha 123
  • KoraḤ 127
  • Ḥukkat 130
  • Balak 134
  • PinḤas 138
  • Mattot 141
  • Mase’Ei 144
  • Deuteronomy 147
  • Devarim 149
  • Va-EtḤannan 152
  • ‘Ekev 156
  • Re’Eh 160
  • Shofetim 163
  • Ki Tetse’ 167
  • Ki Tavo’ 171
  • Nits Avim/Va-Yelekh 174
  • Ha’Azinu 177
  • Ve-Zo’t Ha-Berakhah 181
  • Subject Index 185
  • Index of Sources 189
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