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The Question Is the Sermon

The Hebrew word for sermon is drasha. It is derived from “l’drosh” meaning “to inquire” or “to expound.”

The Torah relates: “The children struggled in Rebekah’s womb, and she said, “If so, why do I exist? She went to inquire (l’drosh) of the Lord.” (Genesis 25)

Like Sarah before her and Rachel after her, Rebekah faces difficulty conceiving a child. God likewise intervenes and she miraculously becomes pregnant. Rebekah carries twin boys: Jacob and Esau. Their struggles, and battles, with each other begin before they are even born. And this causes their mother pain.

Is her distress physical or emotional?

I wonder. Why is pain the motivation for Rebekah’s question? Why does her struggle turn her towards God? Why does pain send us searching for answers from an unknowable being? Why do our struggles make us question our existence?

God responds to her inquiry: “Two nations are in your womb, two separate peoples shall issue from your body; one people shall be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.”

I remain perplexed. This is an answer to her pain? This justifies the struggle between Jacob and Esau? How can Rebekah’s torment ever be assuaged?

We pine after answers that cannot, and will not, arrive. And yet we must continue the inquiry. The question is the essence of who we are. The asking is what defines us.

Peter Cole, observes in his poem, “Notes on Bewilderment”:
Lord, goes the prayer, keep me from delusion.
Which really means allow my mind to be open
to all that comes my way, without bringing
ruin upon me—through fusion of things that are
distinct at heart. Keep me from conclusion.
We pretend that God answers. We speak with far too many exclamation points. We would be better served by concluding with question marks.

At the heart of every sermon is a question. The beginning of learning is asking, “Why?”

Indeed! Why do I exist?