Elements of a Great Shidduch
Rabbi Reuven Mann
This week’s Parsha, Chayei Sarah, begins on a sad note as we read about the death of our first Matriarch, Sarah Imainu. She had left her family and homeland and joined Avraham in his travels and tribulations. She was fully engaged in the great outreach movement which brought so many people under the wings of the Shechinah. At her initiative, Avraham took Hagar as a wife in order to produce a worthy spiritual heir. With the best of intentions, however, that plan didn’t work out.
And then the great miracle which brought joy and laughter to all decent people occurred. Sarah was ninety years old when she bore Yitzchak and fully able to nurse him until his time to be weaned.
Sarah died at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven, which means that she got to enjoy thirty-seven years with her precious son. Thus, she was there when he was little and in his teenage and adult years.
It wasn’t long after her death that a Shidduch (match) was found for Yitzchak, and he got married. One can’t help but wonder what a great Simcha (happiness) that would have been for Sarah to attend. Was it absolutely necessary for her to die before her son got married? Rashi cites a Midrash which seeks to explain the juxtaposition between Sarah’s death and the Akeida (binding of Yitzchak for sacrifice). How so? When an angel came forward and told Sarah how close her son had come to dying, she went into shock and expired.
According to this Midrash, one can assume that had the angel refrained from speaking, Sarah would have been alive and well and danced at Yitzchak’s wedding. Of course, we don’t know what motivated the angel to convey such tidings to Sarah. But this story contains an important lesson for us. Think before you blurt things out. There is a great desire to be the one who reveals the latest news–but not everyone can handle distressing reports.
Certain announcements can have a “shock effect” and while many people can absorb them unharmed, yet there are others who may have “pre-existing conditions” for whom the sudden jolt can be dangerous. We need to bear that in mind and always be sensitive to the condition of others.
The death of Sarah had an impact on her immediate family and society at large. The people of the area deemed it an honor to have this great Tzadeket (righteous one) buried among them. It would seem that her passing precipitated the search for a wife for Yitzchak. Avraham’s trusted servant, Eliezer, discovered this beautiful girl at the watering holes caring for the sheep of her father. Could this be the one he had prayed for?
In order to find out, he devised a test. “Let it be that the maiden to whom I shall say, ‘Please tip over your jug, so I may drink’; and who replies, ‘Drink and I will even water your camels,’ her will You have designated for your servant, for Yitzchak; and may I know through her that You have done kindness with my master. (Bereishit 24:14)” And this is precisely what happened, and Eliezer considered the girl to be a true disciple of Sarah in wisdom, compassion and Gemillut Chasadim (assisting people in need).
The Torah describes the marriage. “And Yitzchak brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother; he married Rivka, and she became his wife, and he loved her, and thus was Yitzchak consoled after his mother. (Bereishit 24:67)”
This verse seems to be repetitive, for after saying “he married her” it is completely unnecessary to say that “she became his wife”. But the Torah is communicating an important idea here. A woman does not become a wife by the mere act of marrying her. From a technical perspective yes, but from an existential standpoint no.
Being a wife or husband depicts a certain type of living relationship. The marriage ceremony establishes the legal framework, but the manner in which each party relates to the other is determinative. The Torah is telling us that after the wedding each party treated and related to the other as a caring, respectful and attentive spouse.
And Yitzchak discovered in Rivka the great virtues he had experienced in his mother, and this was a source of extreme comfort. May we attain the level of love and tranquility which marked the marriages of our illustrious forefathers.
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—Rabbi Reuven Mann