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Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
December 7, 2006
© Rabbi Jack Moline

Finding a meaning in the relationship our maternal ancestors had with God is an exploratory rather than expository exercise. Though the stories of their lives have a richness conveyed by Torah, I am forced to invent a name for the nature of the relationship that the three youngest matriarchs had with God – no such names appear in the tradition.

It seems to me that the defining aspect of Rebecca's life was that she knew what it was like to be filled and fulfilled with God's presence. From the time she filled with water jugs for Abraham's servant, sent to find Isaac his wife, a sense of "filling up" seems to pervade Rebecca's experiences.

Rebecca demands that Isaac plead with God to make her fertile, and God fulfills her prayer. She is quite literally filled with children – she is pregnant with twins, rambunctious within her to the point that she seeks out God to ask for explanation. In response, she is filled with prophecy, hearing God's voice and perceiving the intentions God has for each of her sons. Rebecca then becomes an agent for God in fulfilling that destiny, helping Jacob supplant his brother, and fulfilling his destiny by sending him on his way to Haran, where he will be the agent of filling the land with her grandchildren and their offspring.

When Rebecca makes that request of God and God answers, the Torah tells us that the days of her pregnancy were filled, that is, complete. God was fully present in Rebecca's life, and so I chose the description "Malei Rivka."

When reciting the Amidah and including the matriarchs, the words "elohei rivka," "God of Rebecca," should enable us to seek a relationship with God that fills every aspect of our lives.

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