Communication – Toldot 5783

D'var Torah | Genesis

A divorce attorney began his intake interview with a female client by asking if she had any grounds. She replied: “About two acres.” “No,” said the lawyer. “I meant what is the foundation of this case?” She said: “Concrete, brick and mortar.” “No,” said the lawyer. “I mean what are your relations like?” She replied: “I have an aunt and an uncle and my husband has a brother.” “Okay,” said the lawyer shifting gears, “Do you have a grudge?” “Why, yes,” said the woman, “and it can accommodate three cars.” “No,” said the lawyer in exasperation, “Let me ask an easier question: Does your husband ever beat you up?” “Yes,” she replied, “On weekdays he awakes at 7:00 a.m. while I sleep until about eight.” Finally, and in frustration, the lawyer asked: “Why do you want a divorce?” “Oh, I don’t want a divorce,” she answered. “My husband wants a divorce. He says he can’t communicate with me.”


Family relations are often undermined by miscommunication. Consider the patriarchal family of Isaac and Rebecca. Rebecca is the love of Isaac’s life. The Torah describes the healing role that Rebecca played in a brief but powerfully moving expression: “Isaac then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebecca as his wife. Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:66). Even so, there seems to be a wall of silence between them. When Rebecca seeks oracular advice during her difficult pregnancy (Genesis 25:22-23), there is no textual indication that she shared this important information with her husband. The result was a worsened family dynamic with each parent showing preference to a different child.


This was not the first instance of miscommunication between spouses. God tells the first human not to eat of the fruit of Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 2:17). He tells his mate that she must not touch it (Genesis 3:3). The results are catastrophic. When she sees that no harm comes to her by touching, she proceeds to eat the fruit and then share it with her mate resulting in their banishment from the Garden of Eden. And this is not the last instance of miscommunication between spouses. Later, Rachel steals the household gods belonging to her father but never tells her husband Jacob. (According to the Midrash she was trying to prevent him from sin.) Jacob, unknowingly, swears that Laban’s accusations are false, and puts his wife’s life in jeopardy when he proclaims that the thief, if caught, shall be put to death (Genesis 31:32).


The Torah allows the text to speak for itself. There is no need to pontificate. For marriages to endure, for family relations to prosper, good communication must be the rule.


Words to Live By

What lies behind you and what lies ahead of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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