Sarah Lives On by Mr. Baruch Speiser


ויבאה יצחק האהלה שרה אמו ויקח את רבקה ותהי לו לאשה ויאהבה וינחם יצחק אחרי אמו: (Bereshit 24:67).

What made Rivka so special?  Why was Rivka a perfect choice for Yitzchak?  While a superficial reading of the Chumash seems to indicate that it was because she was a Baalat Chessed, being a kind and caring person does not instantaneously make a spouse.  What made Rivka ‘right’ for Yitzchak?

First, we must analyze the character of Yitzchak.  It is fairly straight forward; his life in Chumash and the stories that involve him as the focal character are sparse.  There are only two stories in Chumash that really involve Yitzchak as a critical element of the story: the Akeida and the blessing of Yaakov and Esav. 

Yitzchak’s nature, at least according to the simple reading of the text, was that of a passive, reflective individual.  Yitzchak does not actively pursue the will to get married.  Unlike Avraham, who is already married to Sarah when he first appears and later marries Ketura of his own accord, Yitzchak waits for his father to choose a wife for him.  Unlike Yaakov, he does not work to earn his wife’s hand in marriage.  He is simply passive in this regard, following the will of his father Avraham; or even possibly the whim of his servant, considering that it was Eliezer who not only chose his wife but also established the criteria to do so.

Furthermore, Yitzchak was clearly not the outspoken type.  He did not say much by the Akeida, nor did he seem to be proactive in his involvement with the affairs of his own children, Yaakov and Esav.  In fact, of all the Avot, Yitzchak seems to have the least impact of all three of our forefathers.  While one could argue that this is because he was neither the first nor the last and hence the middleman who must serve only as a transitional figure, it could be equally argued that he was chosen to be the second forefather because of his passive nature.

On the other hand, there is Rivka.  Once she enters the scene, Rivka plays a role in the forefront.  Note how the Chumash acknowledges her significantly – the beginning of Parshat Toldot mentions Rivka but does not mention her mother-in-law, Sarah.  After Esav marries a Hittite woman, the Pasuk indicates that he was rebellious to both his father and his mother. (Compare this to the stories of Avshalom ben Dovid Hamelech, where the mother is not mentioned as being rebelled against.)

Rivka is proactive and offers to provide water for Eliezer’s entourage.  Later on, she does not advise Yaakov to “deceive” his father Yitzchak, but rather she explicitly commands him to do so.  She also then imagines an excuse for him to leave and escape the wrath of Esav, by claiming that she does not want him to take a wife from the land of Canaan like his brother did.

Throughout her lifetime, Rivka is outspoken, headstrong, and free-willed.  It also seems that her family life had an impact as well.  Like Yitzchak, Rivka’s father Betuel was also very passive.  Her brother Lavan steals the show when Eliezer is invited in, and Betuel subsequently disappears from the narrative.  It seems that Lavan took advantage of his father’s quiet, passive nature and grew to be his own self, laced with greed and self-centeredness, quite parallel to the way Esav developed under his quiet father.  Rivka realized that she must spiritually direct herself away from the path of Lavan, because she would not have any help from her father, and unlike her future husband did not have a mother like Sarah, who was willing to rebuke her husband in order that he would focus his attention to the correct son for spiritual development.

Thus, we see the sharp contrast of Yitzchak and Rivka.  They were perfect for each other because of the force that they each carried – Yitzchak as the carrier of divine influence, which he learned from the Akeida and the special bond it formed between him and his father; and that of Rivka, a much more practical and pragmatic sense of pedagogical insight, someone with determination and the inner strength to set things straight.

Thus, we see that Yitzchak and Rivka were perfect for each other because they became the embodiment of Avraham and Sarah.  Both couples faced similar pedagogical challenges; the father, who thought the divine spirit should rest with one son and the mother, who proactively retuned the transition.

We see that Yitzchak was comforted over he loss of his mother because Rivka replaced the role of his mother.  It is quite possible to suggest that Yitzchak was afraid after his mother was gone due to the loss of Sara’s practical outlook and common sense.  With the entrance of Rivka, he realized that he, too would have the assistance of an Eizer Kinegdo, someone who would be able to set things straight for his children.


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