Quick Comment, Parashat Hayye Sarah, (Genesis, Chapters 23:1-25:18)
“I will go.” With these words Rebecca—and by extension the Torah—changed the course of human history.
Abraham is now old and knows the future of the fledgling Covenant he has established with God depends on finding just the right wife for Isaac. He dispatches his trusted servant (whom the Midrash unanimously concludes is Eliezer of Genesis 15) to Haran and says find the right woman and bring her back here to the Promised Land.
With God’s help and after an ingenious test at the well, Eliezer chooses Rebecca. He then goes to her brother and legal guardian, Laban, to ask for her hand. Laban agrees, but before Rebecca leaves, he asks and receives her consent
Torah does not make a big deal of it, but it set an earth shaking legal precedent in Jewish law. A woman cannot be married without her consent.
The episode ends with the instructive words, “And Isaac loved her and found comfort in her after the death of his mother.”
In my experience as a rabbi I have found the death of a parent often imposes great stress on a marriage.
Sometimes he or she is simply not able to respond in a way that meets the acute emotional needs of the one who suffers a loss. I have seen marriages fall apart surrounding this issue.
The last sentence of the story tells us that the marriage was strong, and Rebecca met Isaac’s needs well.
Next week’s portion will reveal that Rebecca was by far the stronger character of the two, but that independence and strength revealed themselves in her (one-word in Hebrew) answer to her brother’s question, “Do you consent to go with this man, and live your life far away from home? She answered, “אלך I will go!”