• Rabbi Rubanowitz

Chayei Sarah - 5778/2017~ Marry First, Love Later?

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What comes first, Love or Marriage? Well, According to Frank Sinatra, it would seem putting marriage first is like driving a horseless carriage. But look at the Torah in our Parasha: “And Yitzhak brought her to his mother Sarah’s tent. And (a) he took Rivka to be his wife, and (b) he loved her…. (Genesis 24:67). Apparently, the Torah sees things differently than Ol’ Blue eyes! Yitzchak, our Holy Patriarch says: marry first, love later!   

But does this make sense? How can Hashem ask us to marry people without loving them? Is that not begging for trouble down the road?

I love it when I find an answer to one Parsha problem from another Parasha problem and I think I did! Here is my offering today:

Earlier in the Parsha, Eliezer, appointed to find a wife for Yitzchak, asks Hashem for help. He says: … “Hashem, G-d of my master Avraham, may You so arrange it for me this day that You do kindness with my master Avraham. See, I stand here by the spring of water and the daughters of the townsmen come out to draw. 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” (Bereishis 12-14).

Thus the “test” was: Eliezer asks for a drink and the right “candidate” would OFFER much more: not only will I get you a drink, I will get water for your camels as well!” Once she makes the offer says Eliezer, he would have all the “proof” he needed that she was the right Shidduch and match for Yitzchak.  Yet when it came down to reality on the ground, it seems Eliezer wasn’t happy with Rivka’s bare offers. See how the story continues: 24:20… “So she hurried …and she drew for all his camels… 24:22: And it was, when the camels had finished drinking, the man took his ring…bracelets on her arms… “.  

In other words, he greeted Rivka with the “engagement” gifts not the moment she “qualified” by making the extraordinarily kind “offer”, but the moment the kindness was completed “on the ground.

What happened-did Eliezer change his mind? Switch the “deal” or terms of the “test” to make it even harder (wanting to see if Rivka did what she said she would do)? If so, that doesn’t match my understanding of the trusty servant of Avraham who himself was reputed (as per our Medrash) to be a man of the highest morals, integrity character -and even Torah knowledge!

But I intentionally kept something out of the discussion. I didn’t tell you what actually happened when Eliezer asked Rivka to give him a drink:

Verse 24:17: Eliezer says: “let me sip a little water from your jug”

Verse 24:18: Rivka says: “Drink my master…”

Verse 24:19: “She finished giving him drink, and she said, “I will also draw (water) for your camels-until they are finished drinking”.   

Notice what happened here. Eliezer’s “test” or “conditions” were that Rivka offer to get drink for the camels. But Rivka didn’t follow that script exactly. Rivka went beyond. Going off script-she messed it up! Instead of just making the offer as Eliezer “directed”, a kind enough demonstration, she exuberantly added: “I’ll hang around until I make sure every camel had its full”. At this point, after hearing such a magnanimous offer, Eliezer says” “This I must see. People are full of grand talk and even grander gestures. But that kind of grandiosity usually leaves me wondering if it’s too good to be true. Greeks bearing gifts… this is the land of Laban/Besuel after all…”. And thus it was not until he saw the fulfillment of Rivka’s “huge” campaign promises that he was able to ascertain that indeed, this is a woman who truly stands behind every word she says… has the actions that reveal the true depth of her character and the integrity of her lofty expressions.

Back to Sinatra. Is it “Love and Marriage” or “Marriage-then love”? Well, if the Eliezer story teaches us anything, more than the deepest expressions of love, adoration and commitment, are the day-in-day-out actions between people. Every love affair comes with the grandest of professions, statements of undying love wrapped up in what often is us at our most eloquent. Says the Torah, when you hear people talk like that…beware. Make sure you SEE the love on the ground. Wait around until “all the camels finish drinking”. To be sure, yes, make the love plunge-most of us do.You can fall “IN” love, sure. But don’t think it ends–and don’t let it end there. If you want to experience true loving in any relationship, don’t just rely on the “I will”-wait for the “I DO”.

With Blessings for a LOVELY Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom!

Shalom Rubanowitz

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