<I>Chayei Sarah</I>: A Woman of Valor

Forge and strengthen a deep spiritual bond of love

Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen,

Judaism  Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen
Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen
The mission of building the Hebrew nation is passed to the next generation as Avraham sends Eliezer to the city of Nahor in order that he find a suitable wife for Yitzchak. Upon his arrival in the city, Eliezer seeks assistance from HaShem in recognizing the proper girl for his master's son. As Eliezer finishes his prayer, he is immediately introduced to Rivka, who meets every criterion and even reveals that she is a distant relative of
Eliezer obviously understands this to be a match made in Heaven.
Avraham. Eliezer obviously understands this to be a match made in Heaven.

"Every day a bat kol proclaims, 'Miss X to Y.'" (Moed Katan 18b) It is further taught on this page that, "Woman and man are joined by G-d." This is a theme clearly seen in Eliezer's expedition. When he finishes telling Rivka's family the story of his journey, they respond by proclaiming their understanding that it is G-d who has been guiding events for Eliezer in order that he find Yitzchak's appropriate bride.

"Then Lavan and B'tuel answered and said, 'The matter stemmed from HaShem. We can say to you neither bad nor good. Here, Rivka is before you; take her and let her be a wife for your master's son as HaShem has spoken.'" (Bereishit 24:50-51)

This is the clearest evidence of Eliezer's success as Avraham's student and loyal servant. In addition to accomplishing his mission of finding Yitzchak a bride, he brings Lavan and B'tuel to the awareness of HaShem's supremacy. This in itself served as an incredible sanctification of G-d's Name. Through the way in which he told his story, Eliezer clearly illustrated that HaShem had been guiding events all along, making it obvious that G-d arranges the circumstances through which people meet. It is taught that "no one finds his mate without Divine intervention. Sometimes he goes looking for her and sometimes she comes to him." (Bereishit Rabbah 68) Whatever the circumstances may be, when they meet, something inside them is gradually awakened and they come to realize the inherent compatibility between them. The Torah illustrates this when Yitzchak and Rivka finally meet.

"And Rivka raised her eyes and saw Yitzchak; she inclined while upon the camel. And she said to the servant, 'Who is that man walking in the field toward us?' And the servant said, 'He is my master.' She then took the veil and covered herself. The servant told Yitzchak all the things he had done. And Yitzchak brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother; he married Rivka, she became his wife, and he loved her; and thus was Yitzchak consoled after his mother." (Bereishit 24:64-67)

They were new to one another and Rivka displayed great modesty. It even appears that the two were entirely inactive. Their parents and a servant had made all of the
G-d arranges the circumstances through which people meet.
arrangements. More accurately, HaShem put the match together through directing human endeavors. Yitzchak brought Rivka into Sarah's tent and they were married. The Torah shows Yitzchak's true inner greatness in one delicate phrase: "she became his wife, and he loved her."

The Torah teaches here that the true revelation of strength and wisdom is love after marriage. While love before marriage can be easy, enjoyable and free of responsibility, the true test is for a couple to forge and strengthen a deep spiritual bond of love after the wedding.

The sages advise that "whenever love is dependent upon a specific consideration - when that consideration vanishes, the love ceases. If, by contrast, it is not dependent upon a specific consideration - it will never cease." (Pirkei Avot 5:15) The Rambam comments on this verse that a "specific consideration" means a matter of no significance - an external factor that is trivial in nature.

At no point is Yitzchak influenced by any external factors. Nor does the Torah reveal even a hint of dwindling in the love between him and Rivka - even under the most difficult conditions. Like Sarah and Rachel, Rivka was barren and the couple had to wait twenty frustrating years to become parents. While even Yaakov and Rachel later clashed on this very issue (Bereishit 30:1-2), there is no evidence of this ever occurring between Yitzchak and Rivka. Their deep bond could not be influenced by any external factors, even those of great importance. This strength of character, which forged the basis of their love, was eternal (Bereishit 26:8 even shows them laughing together in Grar).

Even in old age, when Rivka intervenes for Yaakov to receive her husband's blessing over Esav, Yitzchak does not appear angry with her. This is a small glimpse at Rivka's greatness as a wife. When it came to the issue of which son should be chosen to inherit the national mission, she was correct and her husband was wrong. Yet, not once did she treat Yitzchak with disrespect. As a devoted wife, she was vigilant to safeguard her husband's ego, even if it meant resorting to duplicity.

Like Rivka, a woman must be relentlessly careful to show her husband admiration and trust. She must make him feel that he is in charge (even when she knows he is not). He will then in turn be able to shower her with the love and kindness she deserves. A smart woman of valor understands that it is a man's nature to be compassionate and giving, but that he can only behave this way when sensing respect. Otherwise, he may grow
A man wants and needs to give love, but cannot do so if it feels demanded.
insecure in his position and unable to give freely. While true courage is the ability to give and to love without fear, too many men are unfortunately not yet this brave.

The sages teach that "a woman's wisdom builds her home" and "a woman of merit follows the will of her husband." This appears to put responsibility for the success of a marriage largely on the woman. Although a man is commanded to provide for all the needs of his wife, she can assist this through making it easy and pleasurable for him to give. In truth, a man wants and needs to give love, but cannot do so if it feels demanded or if his ego is compromised. HaShem created a world of kindness and giving, and these must be the foundations of a loving relationship. While selfishness can destroy a marriage, relationships of giving are everlasting. Happiness and wellbeing are gifts from HaShem, and the only way to receive them is to give joy to others.