Parshat Chayei Sarah is a drama-filled account of the steps taken to insure the transmission of Sarah Imeinu's legacy to the next generation. Not only are many of the larger issues highlighted (such as land rights in Israel, the acquisition of me'arat hamachpeilah, and its significance to our people), but many of the personal ones as well. The criteria by which one chooses a mate are borne out by the account of the search for Yitzchak's bride.
Many of the commentaries ask the question: why did Avraham Avinu instruct his trusted servant Eliezer to find a suitable match for Yitzchak from among the people of his birthplace, Charan, while simultaneously warning him against choosing a Canaanite woman? While it was true that the Canaanites were idolaters, weren't the dwellers of Charan idolaters as well?
Many, including the Ran and the Sochatchover, point out that Avraham rejected the Canaanites because, unlike the people of Charan, they were morally corrupt in addition to being idolaters. Hashem had willed Eretz Yisrael to Avraham and his descendants, the Meshech Chochmah adds, on the condition that the Jewish people live according to the high moral standards of the Torah. Avraham could not allow the assimilation of Canaanite values and their sinful way of life into his family.
Yitzchak, in turn, commands Yaakov not to take a Canaanite wife so that he too may merit the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael.
Other commentaries note that Avraham was concerned about the proximity of the Canaanites. If Yitzchak married a Canaanite woman, she would continue to live near her family and would still be exposed to the influences of avodah zarah. A bride from a distant land, such as Charan, however, would be separated from her family and their customs and would live according to Avraham and Yitzchak's standards.
Eliezer prays for specific signs to identify the young woman, signs of a kind heart, a generous spirit, a concern for others, and a willingness to go out of her way to help.
Significantly, this shidduch fulfilled the expectations of both sides. Rivkah and her family knew of Avraham and Yitzchak's greatness and the privilege of marrying into their family. Rivkah, herself, immediately re recognizes Yitzchak's strong spiritual presence and impressive personality, even from a distance.
And Yitzchak loves Rivkah when he sees her greatness. Rav Zev Soloveitchik, zt"l the Brisker Rav, quotes Onkelos's translation of the verse: And Yitzchak brought her to the tent of Sarah, his mother, and he took Rivkah as a wife." Yitzchak took Rivkah as his wife after he saw that her deeds, her goodness and kindness, matched those of Sarah.
Eliezer had already recounted to Yitzchak all the marvels and miracles that happened on his trip. Indeed, as Rashi explains, the entire mission was a litany of miracles: his journey to Charan was shortened; Rivkah appeared immediately; she possessed the noble character he sought; Beseul, her father, who had tried to delay her departure, was killed by the Angel of Death, fulfilling Avraham's words, "And [G-d] will send His angel ahead and you shall take a wife for my son from there."
Yet, in spite of all these miracles, when did Yitzchak marry Rivkah? Only after he saw that she was a tzadeiket like his mother. Only then.
The story of this shidduch and its lessons continue to be transmitted to us, Yitzchak and Rivkah's children. Their legacy--their Torah way of life--is our inheritance.
Ms. Ehrenberg is Director of International Affairs and Communal Relations of the Orthodox Union's Institute for Public Affairs. (IPA)
OU Torah Insights 5757 Parasha Index
OU Torah Insights 5756 Parasha Index