Rivka had a difficult pregnancy and was often in pain from the unborn children fighting. One particular time, she lamented:
וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ הַבָּנִים, בְּקִרְבָּהּ, וַתֹּאמֶר אִם-כֵּן, לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי; וַתֵּלֶךְ, לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה – The children struggled within her, and she said, “This is what it is? Why is this happening to me?” And she went to inquire of the Lord.
What was so difficult for her to understand, that she had to seek out answers?
But we must remember that at this point in the story, Rivka did yet know she was having twins!
Of course, we have the benefit of knowing how the story would unfold. Chazal understand that each time she walked past a holy site, one child would agitate, and each time she walked past pagan idols, the other would stir.
R’ Chaim Brown suggests a fascinating resolution. When Moshe reviews the Torah in his final speech to the people, he tells them:
רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָֽה – See how I place before you a blessing and a curse… Good and Evil. (11:26)
The simple meaning is that there is always a good and a bad choice, and we must choose wisely.
But there is a different implication from a closer reading. It is not just a choice of action, but a choice of identity – אָנֹכִי means the first person, the self, “I.”
What kind of אָנֹכִי do we each wish to be?
Tying this to Rivka’s problem, we can frame Rivka’s problem and resolution in a different light:
לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי – Where is the אָנֹכִי in this child? Does he want to go to holy places, or serve idols? This child is confused! And the prophet replied to her:
שְׁנֵי גֹיִים בְּבִטְנֵך – It is not one confused child, there are two children with two separate identities.
With this, she was comforted.
With our every each choice and action, we get to choose to align closer with one identity or the other.