A Marriage Made In Heaven?

Isaac and Rebekah serve as a paradigm for Jewish marriage, and yet, their relationship is more complex than it may appear.

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Your Guide

It is poignant to imagine the relationship between Isaac and Hagar, the woman who had been banished by his own mother. How does Sforno's view of Isaac's connection to Hagar compare with Rashi's view of their relationship?

Rashi, commenting on Genesis 24:67, cites the death of a man's mother as the turning point in his emotional life. Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer identifies it as the moment of a man's marriage. Which view resonates with your own experience?

Zornberg considers the meeting and marriage of Isaac and Rebekah as profoundly troubled from the start. Do you agree?

D'var Torah

In the Jewish tradition, we take the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah as our paradigm. From this wedding come our customs of the veil, the blessing of the bride, and the halakhah (Jewish law) that a woman must be asked if she consents to the marriage. In the Torah text itself, the elements of the field, the setting sun, Isaac's prayer (the mysterious verb lasu-ach), and the train of camels create a romantic, mystical mood. Our Sages and medieval commentators looked beyond the surface of the text to read the more complex emotions inherent in this first meeting between a man and woman who would become husband and wife and to explore the complicated history that each of these individuals brought to that encounter.

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Rabbi Stephen Cohen

Rabbi Stephen Cohen is the executive director of the Hillel Foundation at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Calif.