The Tanakh refers to a few women as a נביאה, neviyah – a prophetess. Torah only refers to one woman in such terms: Miriam. Yet the Talmud teaches:

שבע נביאות מאן נינהו שרה מרים דבורה חנה אביגיל חולדה ואסתר

There are seven prophetesses. Who are they? Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Hannah, Avigayil, Huldah, and Esther

Sara et les Anges (Sarah and the Angels) by Marc Chagall

Are these truly the only prophetesses? There is a Midrash which teaches that Rivkah, Yitzhak’s wife, emulated the deeds of Sarah. What if one of those deeds included prophecy?

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Toldot, we read:

וַיִּשְׂטֹ֤ם עֵשָׂו֙ אֶֽת־יַעֲקֹ֔ב עַל־הַ֨בְּרָכָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בֵּרֲכ֖וֹ אָבִ֑יו וַיֹּ֨אמֶר עֵשָׂ֜ו בְּלִבּ֗וֹ יִקְרְבוּ֙ יְמֵי֙ אֵ֣בֶל אָבִ֔י וְאַֽהַרְגָ֖ה אֶת־יַעֲקֹ֥ב אָחִֽי׃ וַיֻּגַּ֣ד לְרִבְקָ֔ה אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י עֵשָׂ֖ו בְּנָ֣הּ הַגָּדֹ֑ל וַתִּשְׁלַ֞ח וַתִּקְרָ֤א לְיַעֲקֹב֙ בְּנָ֣הּ הַקָּטָ֔ן וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו הִנֵּה֙ עֵשָׂ֣ו אָחִ֔יךָ מִתְנַחֵ֥ם לְךָ֖ לְהָרְגֶֽךָ׃

Esav held a grudge with Yaakov because of the blessing which his father blessed him; and Esav said in his heart: The days of mourning of my father are drawing near, I will kill Yaakov my brother. It was told to Rivkah the words of Esav her older son; she sent-message and called for Yaakov her younger son, and she said to him: Behold Esav your brother seeks to comfort himself by killing you.

Obviously this raises the question, If Esav “said in his heart,” then who told Rivkah?

Numerous commentators discuss how it is that Rivkah came to know this information. It is claimed that Esav said it aloud to himself, and this is the meaning of “in his heart.” Others propose that he spoke of his intentions to a friend, and the friend informed Rivkah. Yet, our Sages of Blessed Memory have another explanation found in Breishit Rabbah which is also offered by Rashi:

וַיֻּגַּד לְרִבְקָה וגו’ (בראשית כז, מב), מִי הִגִּיד לָהּ, רַבִּי חַגַּי בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי יִצְחָק, אִמָּהוֹת נְבִיאוֹת הָיוּ וְרִבְקָה הָיְתָה מִן הָאִמָּהוֹת.

“It was told to Rivkah,” Who told her? Rabbi Haggai said in the name of Rabbi Yitzhak: The Matriarchs were prophetesses and Rivkah was one of the Matriarchs!

Why would Rivkah, Rahel and Leah not be included in the list of prophetesses in the Talmud mentioned above? Perhaps since Sarah is the first Matriarch, and the others, beginning with Rivkah, emulated her behaviors, that we are to understand that the prophetic ability was inherent in all of them.