Two of my grandsons have become engaged to be married, all of this
occurring over the last ten days. Naturally, this is an occasion of joy
and satisfaction to me. It occurs during the period of time that we read
this week’s parsha which deals with the betrothal and marriage of Yitzchak
and Rivka. In the bible and in traditional Jewish life generally, parents
have input into the choice of a mate for their children.
Avraham strictly instructs Eliezer not to deign making any marriage
arrangement with the daughters of the Canaanites for Yitzchak. Avraham
chooses family – his own general family – over all other considerations.
There is no doubt that family is a very important consideration in
choosing a mate. People who come from stable and loving home environments
have a pattern and model to follow in their own later domestic
Avraham searches for a family that, although it has other defects –
paganism and a selfish attitude towards wealth and stretching the truth –
at least shares his value of hospitality towards strangers and a sense of
compassion towards other human beings. Nevertheless, Rivka represents the
exception in her family. She is not a pagan and her sense of hospitality
towards others surpasses ordinary standards. She is a product of her
family and home but she has gathered within her all of the positive
attributes that the family of Avraham possessed while rejecting all of the
negative traits and beliefs that the environment of her society impressed
upon the rest of the family.
Eliezer is searching for a diamond in the rough. These are very rare. We
are told of the “tests” and complications that Eliezer demands and
encounters in his search for the proper mate for Yitzchak. He is looking
for the benefits that stem from Avraham’s family without having the
liabilities that usually accompany them. He searches for extraordinary
kindness and concern, modesty of behavior and loyalty to family even when
that family’s beliefs are no longer hers.
It is this remarkable combination of characteristics that mark Rivka as
being the special matriarch of Israel that she becomes. When she will look
for the proper mate for Yaakov she will also send him back to her family
in Aram, in spite of her knowledge of the trickery of her brother Lavan.
There too she hopes that he will find diamonds in the rough – women who
will build the house of Israel and mother the Jewish people for all
Yaakov will also have to find the mates that possess all of the positive
attributes of the family of Avraham and do not carry with them the burden
of the negative traits of the society of Aram. This effort will cost
Yaakov many years of his life, physical privation and mental anguish, but
eventually the goal of creating a nation from a few individuals is
achieved because of his wives and their characteristics.
Eliezer’s search for Rivka becomes the paradigm and model for creating the
proper Jewish family and necessary home environment. The search for
diamonds is much easier today in the Jewish world than it was for Eliezer.
My grandsons may have given their prospective mates diamonds as an
engagement gift but I am certain that the women themselves who are
involved are the true diamonds in the matter.
Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com