At the beginning of parsha Toldot, Isaac’s wife Rebecca is described as “daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean” (Gen. 25:20) We already know Rebecca’s origins, so what is the reason for this apparent redundancy? Rashi explains that the Torah wants to make clear that even though Rebecca’s father was an evil man, her brother was an evil man, and the people of her town were evil, she did not emulate their ways and instead maintained her righteous character.
Responding to Rashi, the Maharal of Prague asks why it was necessary to mention Rebecca’s brother and neighbors. Wouldn’t the same point be made by mentioning only her wicked father? The Maharal answers perceptively that there are three reasons why a person may be influenced to behave wickedly. 1. Out of fear of another person. 2. Out of love for another person. 3. They are simply doing what those around them are doing. Rebecca risked being led into sin in all of these three ways. She could have emulated her father out of fear, her brother out of love, and her neighbors to fit into the community. By referring to all three ways that Rebecca resisted wickedness, the Torah teaches us three separate levels to her righteousness.
May we all be inspired by our Matriarch Rebecca to act righteously, even when surrounded by those who don’t.
Image: “Rebecca” by Giuseppe Molteni, 1835