Rebecca is the second of our matriarchs. She was the wife of Isaac, the mother of Jacob and Esau, and the spiritual successor of Sarah. Rebecca is considered to be the proverbial “rose among thorns.” Our sages explain that the rose grows among the thorns precisely so that the thorns rub against its petals, causing them to emit their pleasant fragrance.

Similarly, Rebecca grew up among “thorns,” people who were immoral in every sense. Her brother was the swindling Laban, who cheated Jacob out of his rightful bride. She grew up in Charan, so called because of its immorality as a place evoking the anger (charon af) of G‑d. But her negative surroundings strengthened her to realize the bankruptcy and valuelessness of a G‑dless, immoral way of life, and to appreciate the beauty of a true and G‑d-fearing life. That is why she so readily agreed to join Eliezer, servant of Abraham, to take her to Isaac and become his wife. She sensed the integrity of a lofty, moralistic life, which was so different from her own surroundings.

From our Patriarchs and Matriarchs we “inherit” our capacity to serve G‑d; that is why they, and only they, are considered to be our national “fathers” and “mothers.” The three Patriarchs and four Matriarchs each served G‑d in a unique way, and passed on their form of service to every Jew until the end of time. From Rebecca we inherited the ability to thrive despite adversity. Rebecca teaches us that we can all overcome our negative surroundings and background, and attain great heights despite them. Had Rebecca not grown up in a wicked home, this element of divine service might not have been a part of our repertoire.1

Moreover, it was due to Rebecca’s heightened ability to identify and sense evil and negativity that she was able to perceive the true nature of her two sons, Jacob and Esau. She saw that Esau’s craftiness would lead only to a lowly life of corruption. It was this perception, which she acquired specifically because of her youth, which enabled her to plot out the plan to exchange the recipient of Isaac’s blessings and thus change the course of history.