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The Prototypical Marriage
by Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

The marriage between Yitzchak and Rivka recounted in this week’s parshah is the first Jewish marriage mentioned in the Torah. It is seen as the prototype of all subsequent marriages, including the cosmic marriage between G-d and the Jewish people that occurred at Sinai.

When Yitzchak married Rivka, he did so by way of a proxy. Abraham dispatched his trusted servant Eliezer to serve as Yitzchak’s agent to betroth Rivka to his son.

Jewish law allows for the possibility of executing a marriage by way of proxy, but only in dire circumstances. The main reason for this objection is that if a man does not meet his wife in advance, he might later find something unappealing and repugnant about her (or vice versa).

Based on this premise, a question has been raised: How could Abraham—whom our Sages state anticipated the commandments of the Torah and observed them—violate the law that forbids a man from marrying a woman without seeing her first? Why did he send his servant to execute the marriage by proxy?

In a similar vein, commentators ask, how could G-d have initiated His marriage to the Jewish people by way of Moses, who served as His proxy to give the Torah to the Jewish people?

A marriage is not merely a contract between two parties. It is the act by which two half souls commit themselves to one another unconditionally. In marriage one accepts the totality of the other, not just the specific qualities that the other brings to the relationship. However, as we are limited human beings, we would not be satisfied with merely an abstract soul-connection. We need a marriage partner that we find compatible on all levels, from the physical to the most sublime. Thus there is the requirement to meet in person before the wedding.

Unlike humans in their relationships, no matter how far a Jew strays from G-d, He will never despise us and find us contemptuous. When G-d married us at Sinai, He embraced us unconditionally. The preliminary step of “seeing us” before marriage was not necessary for G-d. He will never abandon us no matter what.

The marriage of Yitzchak to Rivka was arranged by G-d Himself. There, the hand of G-d was clearly visible every step of the way. In light of G-d’s blessings, it was evident that nothing could undermine this marriage.

As mentioned, this ideal marriage was the forerunner of and paradigm for the marriage between G-d and Israel at Mount Sinai. Like a marriage, the objective of Torah is to create a union: between G-d and the Jewish people, the physical and the spiritual, the body and soul, and the union of all of the world’s inhabitants to serve G-d as one.

The giving of the Torah at Sinai was akin to the betrothal stage of marriage, an event connects us to our spouse but does not represent the ultimate union. The final stage of the marriage between G-d and the Jewish people, and all the ensuing forms of unity that our marriage will generate, will take place with the coming of Moshiach and the final Redemption.

As long as we are in exile, we might erroneously think that our marriage with G-d might have become strained and compromised. With the imminent arrival of Redemption, this misconception will be corrected for all time. We will see how G-d’s relationship with us transcends all considerations. As the Rebbe declared on many occasions: “No Jew will be left behind!” It will become demonstrably clear that even during our long exile G-d’s love for us was and continues to be unconditional.



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