PARSHAT ḤAYEI SARAH

The mission of building the Hebrew Nation is passed to the next generation as Avraham sends Eliezer to the city of Naḥor in order that he find a suitable wife for Yitzḥak. Upon arriving in the city, the servant seeks assistance from HaShem in recognizing the proper girl for his master’s son. He is then immediately introduced to Rivka, who meets every criterion and even reveals herself to be a distant relative of Avraham. Eliezer immediately understands this to be a match made in heaven. 

 

“Every day a bat kol proclaims ‘Miss X to Y’” (Moed Katan 18b)

 

Our Sages further teach: “woman and man are joined by G-D.” The success of Eliezer’s mission clearly illustrates this theme. When he relates the story of his journey to Rivka’s family, they respond by proclaiming their understanding that HaShem had orchestrated events for Eliezer in order that he find Yitzḥak’s appropriate bride.

 

“Then Lavan and B'tuel answered and said, ‘The matter stemmed from HaShem! We can say to you neither bad nor good. Here, Rivka is before you; take her and let her be a wife for your master’s son as HaShem has spoken.’” (BEREISHIT 24:50-51)

 

This is the clearest confirmation of Eliezer’s success as Avraham’s student. In addition to accomplishing his mission of finding Yitzḥak a worthy bride, he brings Lavan and B'tuel to an awareness of HaShem as the active Force guiding human events. Through the way in which he told his story, Eliezer revealed the Kadosh Barukh Hu as having been directing him all along, making it obvious that the Holy One arranges the circumstances through which people meet.

 

Our Sages teach: “No one finds his mate without Divine intervention” (Bereishit Rabbah 68). And once they meet, something inside them is gradually awakened and they come to realize the inherent compatibility between them. The Torah illustrates this when Yitzḥak and Rivka first encounter one another.

 

“And Rivka raised her eyes and saw Yitzḥak; she inclined while upon the camel. And she said to the servant, ‘Who is that man walking in the field towards us?’ And the servant said, ‘He is my master.’ She then took the veil and covered herself. The servant told Yitzḥak all the things he had done. And Yitzḥak brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother; he married Rivka, she became his wife, and he loved her; and thus was Yitzḥak consoled after his mother.” (BEREISHIT 24:64-67)

 

Yitzḥak and Rivka were new to one another and appear in the text to have been entirely passive in the process of coming together. Their families and a servant had made all of the arrangements. More accurately, HaShem had put the match together. Yitzḥak brought Rivka into Sarah’s tent and they were married. The Torah shows Yitzḥak’s true inner greatness in one delicate phrase: “She became his wife, and he loved her.”

 

The Torah teaches here that one of the truest revelations of wisdom and strength is love after marriage. While the “love” that exists beforehand can be easy, enjoyable and free from responsibility, the true test for a couple is to forge and strengthen a deep spiritual bond of love after the wedding.

 

“Whenever love is dependent upon a specific consideration – when that consideration vanishes, the love ceases. If, by contrast, it is not dependent upon a specific consideration – it will never cease.” (Pirke Avot 5:15)

 

The Rambam comments on this teaching that a “specific consideration” means a matter of no significance – an external factor that is trivial in nature.

 

At no point is Yitzḥak influenced by external factors. Nor does the Torah reveal even a hint of dwindling in the love between him and Rivka – even under the most difficult conditions. Like Sarah and Raḥel, Rivka was barren and the couple had to wait twenty years to become parents. While even Yaakov and Raḥel later clashed on this very issue (BEREISHIT 30:1-2), there is no evidence of this ever occurring between Yitzḥak and Rivka. Their deep bond could not be impaired by external factors, even in matters of considerable importance. This strength of character – which forged the basis of their connection – was eternal (BEREISHIT 26:8 even shows them laughing together in Grar).

 

Even in old age, when Rivka intervenes for Yaakov to receive her husband’s blessing over Esav, Yitzḥak does not appear angry. In fact, the event itself reveals a small glimpse at Rivka’s greatness as a wife. When it came to the issue of which son should be chosen to inherit the Hebrew mission, she knew better than Yitzḥak. Yet not once did she treat her husband with disrespect. As a loyal and devoted wife, she was vigilant to safeguard his honor, even if it required her resorting to duplicity.

 

A woman who continuously strives to empower her husband with a sense of control – even in situations where she knows that control to be fictitious – will likely find her husband capable of showering her with the love and affection she deserves. A wise woman understands that a man’s inner nature is to be compassionate and giving but that he can only behave this way when his ego is secure – when he is fully confident in his role as leader of his family. Otherwise, he might grow insecure in his position and unable to share himself freely. While true courage is the ability to give and love without fear, too many men are unfortunately not yet this brave, thus leaving it largely up to women to zealously safeguard the honor of their husbands.

 

King Shlomo teaches us that “a woman’s wisdom builds her home” (MISHLEI 14:1), implying that a major share of responsibility for the success of a marriage lies on the shoulders of a woman. Although a man is commanded to provide for all the needs of his wife, she can assist him through making it easy and pleasurable for him to give.

 

A man is a conduit of blessing that not only wants but actually needs to bestow love. But most men are regrettably unable to open themselves up in situations where they feel their honor to be compromised. HaShem created a world of kindness and giving and these must be the foundations of a loving relationship. While selfishness by either partner can destroy a marriage, healthy relationships of giving are by and large everlasting. Happiness and wellbeing are gifts from HaShem and the best way to receive them is to give joy to others. When relationships are uplifted to the level of Divine service, no external factor should be able to come between partners and the family units they create become able to fulfill their unique functions within the larger Nation of Israel and broader Hebrew mission.

 

With Love of Israel,

 

Yehuda HaKohen

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