Rebecca's Question
Toldot 2011/5772

Internal struggles abound. Europe and the Euro, Israel’s secular/religious Jew/Arab troubles, Penn State’s internal denial and reluctant acceptance of scandal, the American elite’s struggles with the so-called 99% and the dismantling of 'Occupy' camps. Meanwhile, US news stations are fascinated with the conjugal struggles of reality TV star Kim Kardashian. England hasn’t had major internal struggles since the Roundheads and Cavaliers, but the lower House of Parliament enjoys a daily verbal punch-up to keep life interesting.

Isaac marries Rebecca and during her pregnancy she discovers that the twin babies are ‘struggling’ or within her (Gen 25:22). She immediately asks; ‘why am I thus?’.

We have all experienced the symbolic equivalent of two children fighting within our stomach. Sometimes it is two ideas we are wrestling with, two possible jobs to pursue, two courses of action or even which relationship to nurture and which to let go. Some people have strong decision-making muscles and others just freeze, unable to make the call as they are overwhelmed with fear.

Nachmanides (1194-1270) connected Rebecca’s struggle that of Job. In the midst of his depressive struggles, he exclaimed ‘if only I would be as though I was not born!’ (Job 10:19).

This phrase is very important. In a seemingly shameless world, our society still has a huge taboo on discussing mental health. Although many people experience thoughts of suicide at some point in their lives, however fleeting, there is still much shame attached with discussing it. Almost everyone is beset with the difficult existential questions at some point or other – why do I exist – and the aim of our meditation/yoga practice is to help us regain inner balance and joy that is our birthright.

The 15th-Century treatise Hatha Yoga Pradipika explained that a state of yogic balance will be destroyed by six things: ‘overeating, overexertion, talking too much, performing needless austerities, socialising and restlessness’ (1:15). If we find ourselves experiencing inner struggle or turmoil and asking Rebecca’s question ‘Why am I here?’, then we need to stop for a moment. We need to slow down, breathe, and introduce some quiet reflection.

Our meditation and yoga practice must lead us along the path of peace and bring us into alignment with our true purpose. Yoga means ‘oneness’ or ‘unity’ but we can also translate it as ‘clarity’ or even ‘existential clarity’! We become still, we start listening, and then we get clear. We hold variations of Rebecca’s question during our meditations; ‘Why am I thus?’, ‘What is the point of my life?’ or ‘What is my purpose?’. Begin by Occupying your Heart and the answers will surface all on their own.