The following are the thoughts of Rabbi Jacob J Weinstein (z’l) whose daughters Judith and Deborah were identical twins. I return every year to his reflections about his daughters during the week of Parashat Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9), the story of two other twins, Jacob and Esau.

“Job said that there were some things which he could not understand: the way of a ship upon the sea, a coney on the rocks, and the way of a man with a maid.  How then can I understand the super mystery of twinship?  A Rabbi — like other carers of souls —becomes a chameleon and takes on the coloration of the confessor, and I have sometimes felt the kick of the child in the pregnant woman who comes to relate her fears of childbirth. But I have never been able to enter into that very special intertwining relationship which governs twins. Where does one find a scalpel keen enough to sever an invisible umbilical cord?

Your description was about as close as any I have heard in capturing the inwardness of that shifting half-separation and rebounding amalgamation which takes place between the Jacobs and Esaus, the Judiths and Deborahs of our world.

You both will find it hard to realize that separate parachutes may be the only means of salvation at certain times — that there must be spaces in our togetherness, that the oak tree and the cedar do not grow in each other’s shadow.

While this may be a constant source of danger and will require a degree of special awareness, the compensations are more significant. Your twinship will have reduced to a minimum that fear of relatedness, that reticence in sublimation, that inability to put yourself into another’s shoes, or skin or heart or mind—which accounts for so much of the alienation, divisiveness, frigidity and uncommunicativeness in our society. I know that you recognize Mother’s and my wisdom in deliberately placing separateness in your togetherness, even as we recognize how wisely you have disciplined yourselves.

I know that having learned to respect each other’s differences and each other’s need to follow the compulsion and vagaries of your individual hearts, you will both be ready for that most crucial laboratory of relatedness, which is marriage. While you have at times condemned each other and bitterly pointed out faults in each other, you have never allowed these criticisms to dampen your affectionate acceptance of each other, and you have always and at times savagely resented attacks from any outside source (including your parents). If you can transfer that “acceptance” to your mate, you will have it made.”

From “Letters from A Father” – by Rabbi Jacob J. Weinstein, pages 10-11. These letters were privately published by his children, Ruth, Daniel, Judith and Deborah Weinstein in 1976 in Berkeley, California. 

Note: Judy and Deborah both became psychologists. Each was a remarkable woman. They died of cancer two years apart at the age of 48 and 46 respectively leaving husbands and 3 children between them.

Deborah was among my wife Barbara’s and my dearest friends. She was a force of nature, brilliant, passionate, socially conscious, a strong feminist, and kind. She loved us and we loved her. We miss her still nearly 24 years since her death. We knew Judy less well, but she was no less extraordinary. They adored each other. Witnessing them interact revealed the complexity that comes with the closest sibling relationships and  the joy that comes with the deepest intimacy.