Parsha Chayei Sarah: Genesis 23:1 – 25:18
Back to the parsha. So Abraham buries his beloved Sarah and in his ‘old’ age, decided that Isaac needs a wife. He calls his servant, Eliezer, to him and has him undertake a mission to find Isaac a wife. There are a few troubling or interesting ideas here. First, Abe has his servant put his hand on his thigh. Why? Well, pre-Sinai, pre-Torah and our sanctification as a people, objects didn’t hold any holiness after use. The only thing that held holiness was the one mitzvah that G-d commanded Abraham to do: circumcision. So yes, while the Torah is trying to be polite here, our sages tell us that the servant swore on . . . you guessed it, his penis. Here’s another question, why can’t Isaac find his own wife? Well, here we have a logistical issue. Isaac has to marry someone from his father’s hometown, a relative. However, they don’t live in Canaan. Isaac can’t leave Canaan because he has just been used as a sacrifice to G-d; even though it was not complete he is still considered as such. Anything that is offered up as a sacrifice to G-d cannot leave the land. So he’s stuck. The girl must come to him. In fact, take a look . . . Isaac is the only patriarch that never leaves the borders of what will become Israel.
So our servant takes ten camels laden with treasures to Abraham’s hometown. He lands in the city of Nahor in Aram Naharaim. He finds a watering hole and gets the camels to lie down. So now he has to think of a plan. He says to G-d, “Look, here is what I will do. The first girl who is kind enough to offer me water and water for all ten of my camels will be the one.” Why such a condition? Well, Abraham is known for his chesed, loving-kindness. His son is known for his gevurah, severity. Isaac’s wife had to have a measure of kindness to help balance out the family. Chesed (loving-kindness) plus gevurah (severity) all in the right measure make tiferet (balance, beauty). Just as he finishes this idea in his head, little Rivka comes out and offers him some water. She was a beauty, however, several rabbis have calculated that she was only three at this time! She gives the servant water and then offers to water the camels for him. Let’s just get this straight for a minute. Do we realize how much a camel can drink? Between 30-50 gallons! Yeah, our little Rivka had her work cut out for her.
Our servant knows that this girl is Abraham’s kin, so he pulls out some jewelry and puts it on her and asks if he can stay at her house. Her brother, Laban (remember that name for later), sees her and takes them back to the house. The family is anxious to feed this man and hear what is going on. Our faithful servant tells Rivka’s family what the deal is, recounting the story at the well for them. The family chats with the servant for a bit and they all agree that Rivka is to go.
Rivka heads back to Israel/Canaan with the servant. They get close to the homestead and Rivka sees Isaac for the first time. There is some debate on her age at this point but suffice to say she is a teenager. Did I mention that he is in his 40s now? Regardless, this is the first case of love at first sight. Rivka literally nearly falls off her camel when she sees him! Isaac brings her to his mother’s tent, which will now be hers. He marries her, sleeps with her, loves her, and is comforted in the loss of his mother. Why is he now comforted? Rashi tells us there were three miracles that surrounded Sarah and her tent, all of which reappear with Rivka. Isaac knows she is the right one for him.
As the daughter, niece, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of rabbis, Talia Davis has been immersed in Jewish culture and communities throughout her life. She has lived in Israel and served as the Religious and Cultural Vice President of the Southeast Region of North American Federation of Temple Youth. Presently she enjoys attending synagogue at a variety of shuls that range from Chabad Orthodox to her father's post-denominational, Rocky Mountain Hai.