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Making choice


Why did Isaac investigate Rebecca’s character even after all of the “signs” from Heaven pointed to her being his soul mate?

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Chayei Sara” (Genesis 23:1–25:18) and in it we read of the search for a wife for Isaac.

Abraham sends his trusted servant Eliezer back to his hometown of Haran to find Isaac a wife. On the way to Haran, Eliezer makes all kinds of deals, even demands, from God. And God complies with those demands! He blesses Eliezer with great success in his mission.

For example, Eliezer told God that he wants the girl destined to marry Isaac to come greet him and offer him water. And so it was. Rebecca sees Eliezer sitting around the local well, and offers to fetch him a drink.

Not only that, she also offers to fetch water for all of Eliezer’s camels!

So too, God caused Eliezer to reach his destination much earlier than expected. These, and more, were some of the miracles and assistance that God gave Eliezer.

When Eliezer was taken to meet Rebecca’s family, namely, her father Betuel and brother Laban, he told them of all the miracles that God caused in order that he should meet Rebecca and know that she is the one. It was a clear sign from heaven that this was a “match made in heaven” and Rebecca’s family agreed.

They blessed her, and sent her on her way with Eliezer to go and marry Isaac.When Eliezer got back home with Rebecca he rushed to tell Isaac about all the Divine assistance he experienced in order to find the right wife for him.

Eliezer wanted Isaac to be especially reassured that this was a match made in heaven!

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Torah then says that Isaac “brought Rebecca into the tent of Sarah his mother, and he married her.” The Targum commentary says on this verse that Isaac married Rebecca because he saw that she had wonder character traits, like the character traits of Sara his mother.

Wait a second! Why does the Targum commentary say that Isaac married Rebecca due to her character traits? Did Isaac need any further evidence that she was the right woman to marry after hearing the experiences of Eliezer?

Sure, great character traits are nice, but it was clear even before he saw her character traits that she was the right person to marry! What is the Targum commentary trying to teach us?

The answer is that “signs from Heaven” aren’t always everything. Isaac cared about the “bottom line.”

The nice tales and adventures are fine and dandy, and they were important, but Isaac, says the Targum commentary, is telling us not to rely on “signs.” Divine providence must be combined with our efforts. Signs are not enough; we need to discover with our own eyes and through our own efforts.

So whether it’s finding a wife, a business decision, or a medical decision, don’t merely look for “signs” — roll up your sleeves and do your own homework, come to your own conclusions, and then you’ll know that you truly received a sign from Heaven!

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.