Saturday, November 15, 2014

Torah Thoughts on Chayei Sarah

This week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, (Gen 23:1-25:18) includes the choosing of Rebecca as a wife for Isaac and their meeting, but not in the expected order.  At the beginning of the portion, we learn of Sarah’s death, and after Abraham buys a burial place for her and mourns her, he turns his energies to finding a wife for his son Isaac.  He sends his servant back to his birthplace so that Isaac will marry a woman of Abraham’s own people.  The servant prays to God that he will find the right woman for his master’s son, and devises a test.  He will go to the well, and the first woman who offers to water his camels will be the one that God has chosen.   What follows is according to plan; Rebecca turns out to be the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor and she is eager to go with him and be the mistress of a prosperous and large homestead.  What was not expected was the love that would grow between Isaac and Rebecca.

In The Torah: A Woman’s Commentary, Professor Tamara Eskenazi points out that Isaac’s love for Rebecca is the first mention of spousal love in the Torah.  Although Isaac took no active role in the search for his bride, he is smitten when she arrives. “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, he took Rebecca and she became his wife and he loved her” (Gen. 24:67).  Rebecca’s reaction to their meeting is more visceral.  When she and the servant arrive at their destination, she sees Isaac coming to meet them and asks the servant, “Who is this man coming to meet us?” When the servant responds, “He is my master”, Rebecca simply falls off her camel.  Recovering herself, she takes a veil and goes to meet him.  Isaac is the only one of the patriarchs who is monogamous.  Rebecca is all that he needs.

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