The marital relationship between Yitzchak and Rivka was a wonderful one. We see this from a few different verses: About their relationship was the concept of “love” first mentioned in the Torah: "and Yitzchak brought Rivka to the tent of Sara his mother and he took Rivka and she became his wife and he loved her." They are described as a united couple praying together to be blessed with children “and Yitzchak would intercede before the L-rd in the presence of his wife because she was barren."
Yitzchak and Rivka are also the only couple about whom the Torah describes their intimate lives: "and behold, Yitzchak laughs with his wife Rivka." We do not know exactly what "laughs" means in this case, but it certainly describes an intimate life of love and pleasure. And when there is a successful intimate life, it is often a sign of a happy life in general
Now we will look at how the foundations of the wonderful marital relationship between Yitzchak and Rivka were founded, so that we can learn from it and apply it to our own lives.
The challenge of marital relationships is one of the biggest challenges of our generation, if not the biggest. Unlike previous generations, in which people would marry for various family, financial or other reasons and would be content with their mediocre relationship with their spouse, in our generation people want a higher-level relationship. Couples want to feel that their married life fills them with joy and pleasure. They do not want to stay in a relationship just because ..., they want to choose to stay in a relationship because it is good for them.
Unfortunately, the lack of this feeling is what causes the proliferation of divorce within our communities, and even couples who do not divorce often report unhappy lives. We will try to learn from our parsha three principles that will help us maintain faith in happiness and joy in our home, our relationship and our families.
1. The first principle found in the parsha are good deeds. The choice of Rivka as a bride for Yitzchak is based on the test of kindness. “Eved Avraham” (hereinafter “Eliezer”, although his name is not explicitly written in the parsha) stages a scenario to test Rivka’s level of kindness. As he plans before he reaches her city "Behold, I will stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city go out to draw water. And it will be that I will say to the young woman ‘give me your jug and I will drink’ and she says to me ‘Drink and I will also give your camels to drink’ that is the one who is worthy of your servant Yitzchak and thus I will know that I have done right for my master.” Only when Eliezer sees that Rivka excels in kindness to this extent, does he realize that she deserves to be a wife to Yitzchak.
It is said of one of the great men of Israel that when he was asked what qualities are most important to look for in a potential spouse, he replied: “There are three things that are most important. The first is good character traits, the second is good character traits, and the third is good character traits.”
Marriage requires us to work 24/7 to acquire and perfect good character traits. In any relationship we need good manners, but married life is where we are required to work hardest. Being a spouse demands of us a constant correction of character traits, since there is no one who is more annoying, disappointing, insulting, etc. than a wife or husband.
Therefore, the characteristics of the couple are not only something that needs to be checked out before the wedding, but it is something that accompanies the entire marriage. It is a daily task that is needed to happily succeed in married life.
Marriage makes us go “out of our minds”, not only in the popular sense of the phrase, but also in the sense that we need to forget about our personal opinion, and expand our mindset, so that it contains that of our spouse. It is a life's work of correcting one’s character.
2. The second principle that appears in the parsha is the belief that G-d gives a wife to her husband (ie. is the ultimate matchmaker). Even Betuel and Lavan - the wicked father and brother of Rivka - could not help but understand this principle, as they said, "From God came this thing (the match).”
To emphasize this idea, the Talmud in Tractate Mo'ed Katan says that this idea is mentione thrice in Tanach: “Rav said in the name of Rabbi Reuven ben Etzrobili: In the Torah, in the Neviim and in the Kesuvim it says that a woman is given to her husband by G-d. In the Torah it says ‘and Lavan and Betuel answered and they said “from G-d came this thing”.’ In the Neviim it says (about Shimshon): ‘and his father and his mother did not know that it (the match) was from G-d’. And in Ketuvim it says ‘a house and capital is an inheritance from one’s fathers but an educated woman is from G-d’.”
As Jews we believe that everything that happens in the world is orchestrated by G-d, but in the matching between a man and a woman there is special divine supervision. We can all tell stories – our own as well as that of others – of how G-d brings a man and a woman together in miraculous ways. G-d is the true matchmaker of each and every couple.
Many times, at engagement parties or Sheva Brachot it is customary to tell about the providence of G-d which brought the bride and groom together. But really, it is important to remember the principle of “a woman given to a man by G-d” at every moment in life. Precisely when there is a quarrel and conflict between a couple, that is the most important time to remember that G-d is the one who brought them together initially, and despite the quarrel they do belong together, and the same G-d who connected them to begin with is also the One who accompanies them and is with them in all aspects of their married life, and is the One who gives the strength to weather the difficulties and to continue to grow and strengthen their bond.
3. The third principle that appears in the parsha is the power of prayer. When Avraham Avinu sends Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak he prays for the success of the mission. "The L-rd G-d of heaven who took me from my father's house and from my homeland and who spoke to me and who swore to me saying ‘to your offspring I will give this land’ will send his angel before you and you will take a wife for my son from there." And when Eliezer arrives at the well in Haran he prays to the
L-rd of the world for the success of the mission and his test of the young woman’s kindness, as he says: “L-rd G-d of my master Avraham, make it happen before me today (that I succeed in my mission) and perform kindness with my master Avraham".
And later, when the mission is indeed successful, Eliezer turns to G-d in a prayer of thanks, "Blessed is the L-rd, the G-d of Avraham, who has not removed his grace and truth from before my master.” And at the end of the story of the matchmaking, Yitzchak meets Rivka when he returns from davening, as the Torah says “and Yitzchak went out to converse (daven) in the field towards evening and he raised his eyes and saw and behold camels were coming and Rivka raised her eyes and saw Yitzchak and she descended from upon the camel.”
This immense power of prayer is not only meant for single men and women yearning to find their mate, nor is it meant only for the bride and groom on their wedding day. Prayer is a perpetual gift that should regularly accompany any couple’s married life. Every day both husband and wife should pray for the success of their marriage. It is not possible to meet all the challenges of marriage without praying that G-d should constantly bestow upon us His everlasting divine assistance.
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Rabbinical Organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem community in Modi'in