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From Me to We

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebecca the daughter of Bethuel.” (Genesis 25:20)

At the age of ninety, after many decades of childlessness, Sarah gave birth to her only child, Isaac. We can only imagine how happy she would have been had she been given the opportunity to rock one of Isaac’s children, her very own ainikel, on her knee. Sarah, the very first yiddishe mama, would certainly have taken great pleasure in showing all her friends the baby pictures and videos of her grandchildren... And besides the nachas which every grandparent has from a grandchild, Sarah would also have had great spiritual satisfaction from watching her grandchildren as they grew up, since Isaac’s progeny represented the future of the Jewish nation. Sarah and Abraham had toiled their entire lives to proclaim the importance of belief in One G-d. Isaac’s child would be the one to ensure that this legacy would continue and flourish.

But Sarah never lived to see any grandchildren. She passed away when Isaac was 37 years old—three years before he married Rebecca. Why did Isaac wait so long to marry? Why didn’t Abraham, years earlier, consider sending his servant to fetch a wife for him from his hometown in Mesopotamia?

This preoccupation with self comes to a crashing halt when a person walks down the wedding aisle
The major event which occurred shortly before Isaac and Rebecca’s wedding was the binding of Isaac on Mount Moriah. Credit for passing this test is usually attributed to Abraham. But Isaac was 37 at the time (the Binding coincided with Sarah’s death – and according to the Midrash, it actually caused it). He was certainly aware of his father’s intentions, and willingly submitted himself to be sacrificed as per G-d’s command. Since Isaac’s wedding plans commenced immediately upon returning from this “traumatic” event, there certainly is a correlation between the two. The fact that the first wedding in the Torah is preceded by a tremendous sacrifice is a message for every Jewish bride and groom for all time.

People are naturally self-centered. Our own physical and spiritual development and enhancement are foremost on our minds. This is not necessarily evil; in fact, Jewish law recognizes the primacy of a person’s own welfare over all other concerns—including the interests of others. This preoccupation with self comes to a crashing halt when a person walks down the wedding aisle. At that point, bride and groom wholly commit themselves to each other. When a single person is on a sinking boat, no one will blame him for running for the life boats to save his own life, even if his friend might be asleep in their cabin. But such a move is unthinkable for the married person whose spouse is in need of assistance.

Aside for their commitment to each other, husband and wife are also committed to an ideal which both share and wish to perpetuate—the establishment of a Jewish home, a home suffused with holiness, a home where the Divine Presence is always welcome. At this point, even the personal spiritual development of the bride and groom becomes secondary to the goal for which they are “sacrificing” themselves. The mundane task of changing a diaper suddenly takes priority over the mother’s prayers or the father’s study!

Isaac was not ready for marriage until he experienced firsthand the concept of total self-sacrifice. Only then was he able to appreciate marriage for what it really is, and create a marriage which was the paradigm which all his descendents attempt to emulate.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Marriage » Married Life

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Sarah
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Rebecca
Second of the Jewish Matriarchs. Wife of the Patriarch Isaac, and father of Jacob. b. 1675 BCE, d. 1553 BCE.
Genesis
The first book of the Five Books of Moses. It records the story of Creation and its aftermath, and chronicles the lives of the Patriarchs.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.