Male-Ordered Bride: Chayei Sara 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: At what point in your life were you told to be cautious around strangers? How old were you when you stopped being too worried about them? Or, to what extent do strangers still scare you?

While asking his servant to find Isaac a wife, Abraham makes clear to avoid choosing women of one suspicious nation:

The Pitch: “I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell …” – Genesis 24:3

Swing #1: “Even when Abraham does act in opposition to others … there is no sense that he is motivated by any religious difference. … When Abraham instructs his steward to avoid ‘the daughters of the Canaanites’ in his search for a wife for Isaac, the reason commonly given elsewhere for avoiding intermarriage – that ‘their daughters will lust after their gods and will cause your sons to lust after their gods’ (Exodus 34:16) – is conspicuous for its absence.” – Jon D. Levenson, Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity & Islam

Swing #2: “Abraham’s own family had been idol-worshippers. What, then, made them better than the Canaanites? The Canaanite tribes were morally corrupt – the Scriptures contain many references to the ‘abominations of the land of Canaan’ – and moral corruption can be passed on from parent to child. Abraham’s kin, on the other hand, were not corrupt; they were merely victims of error in that they worshiped teraphim, and error is not inheritable.” – Abraham Bornstein

Swing #3: “[Abraham instructs his servant] carefully: ‘Do not get a wife for my son from the women of the Canaanites in whose midst I dwell.’ When the servant meets the family of Rebecca, daughter of Abraham’s cousin Bethuel, he repeats the command that Abraham had given him: ‘Do not get a wife for my son from the women of the Canaanites in whose land I dwell’ (Genesis 24:37). Even though the servant introduces Abraham’s instructions with the Hebrew word that denotes direct quotation, he is not concerned with repeating Abraham’s wording mechanically, merely with accurately conveying his meaning.” – Michael Carasik, The Bible’s Many Voices

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators think that Abraham is more concerned with religious difference or cultural difference? Do you think he fears more that Isaac will assimilate, or that his new wife wouldn’t be “good enough” for him? Can we learn about a person’s character from their choice (or lack) of spouse?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: An information session for Camp Ramah Canada will take place at the Community Religious School (at Congregation Shir Shalom) this Sunday. Learn about all the great things Ramah has to offer!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of spouses, it is said that Joe DiMaggio never got over losing Marilyn Monroe — and that, on his deathbed, he expressed gratitude that he would see her again. No matter how famous a celebrity couple is, we shouldn’t lose sight of each person’s humanity.

Shabbat Shalom!