Chayyei Sarah

November 12, 2014

The Netziv in his commentary Haamek Davar, on this weeks sedra, chapter 24 verse 65 makes an interesting comment on the nature of the marriage relationship. This has been taken up by later commentators often without acknowledging the original source! [Rivkah] said to the servant, “Who is that man walking in the field toward us?” The servant said, “He is my master.” She then took the veil and covered herself.

“That man” (halozeh) implies a person who leaves a strong, frightful impression. Rivkah noted that his very appearance was overpowering. When she learned that he was the man to whom she was to be married, she felt unworthy and small. She therefore veiled herself – in embarrassment! From this first meeting with her future husband, the nature of their relationship was set. It was not to be the more open relationship that existed between Sorah and Avrohom, and between Rochel and Yaakov. When those matriarchs disagreed with their spouses, or had something strong to say, they did not hold back. Rivka’s strong awe at first sight of her husband to be placed an obstacle in their relationship that would never be removed. It would never become one of relaxed candor. Divine Hashgachah was at work in making this happen.

The incident described in our pasuk made a crucial difference in the unfolding of the story of Yaakov and Esav in parshas Toldos. Rivka knew the bitter truth about Esav. She understood Esav’s manipulative powers, how he could glibly convince his father that he was righteous, or at least not evil in the extreme. Nonetheless, Rivka did not – could not bring herself to – share her observations and suggestions with her husband, in order to deny Esav a beracha that would be inappropriate to him. The upshot of this is that Yaakov received a different berachah from his father than he would otherwise have gotten. It was Hashem’s Will that this should happen – and the first encounter between Rivka and Yitzchok was an example of His Will at work long before the event, setting the stage for this to happen. We see that as in all relationships, the marriage relationship is not one size fits all, any more than children can all be educated in the same way. ( The wisest of all men provided us with the fundamental principle of education: ‘Educate a child according to his path, he will not trun from that path even as he grows old’ (Mishlei 22:6) When counsellors and educators realise this, their clients will be better served.

Shabbat shalom Rabbi Wise

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