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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Chayei Sara

Behind Every Great Patriarch is a Great Matriarch

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After Yitzchak married Rivka, the reaction to his satisfaction is one that turns heads from the perspective of our mindset. "He took her for a wife and loved her, and Yitzchak was consoled after his mother" (Bereishit 24:67). Was his love for his wife to be compared to the feelings of loss for his mother?

If we take a look at the chain of events around the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivka, we will see that major family matters were taking place. The next event mentioned after the aforementioned pasuk was that Avraham married a woman named Ketura (traditionally understood to have been Hagar). In fact, Chazal tell us that as Eliezer was bringing Rivka, Yitzchak had gone to get Hagar for Avraham. What was the significance of the timing here? While it is possible that it was an emotional issue, that Yitzchak felt bad if he would get married while his father was widowed, there is likely a more spiritual element to the matter as well.

Sarah’s death had caused a void in the critical role of matriarch, necessary for the holy family to function as the promoters of Hashem’s Name in the world. Hagar could be a companion for Avraham, but she could not be a matriarch. Apparently, there was a makeshift partnership of sorts between Avraham and Yitzchak, whom he was training in his future role as the next patriarch. One might expect that Avraham would remain the sole patriarch until his death, but, examining the p’sukim, we will see that he disappears from the text, which transfers to the life of Yitzchak’s family while Avraham was still alive. When does this happen? Exactly when Yitzchak married Rivka. Interestingly, the same phenomenon exists when Yaakov marries, as Yitzchak disappears from the Torah as a result. In other words, the patriarch, who is certainly a righteous man in his own right, is the one who is married to the matriarch.

This perhaps gives further meaning to the pasuk that stresses the significance of marriage on the relationship between child and parents. "For a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife" (ibid. 2:24). Not only is there a physical and emotional change in the balance of relationships, but also the presence of the wife enables the son to reach an independence to begin assuming positions of prominence. At some point, sometimes marked by the death of one parent, a parent may look to his child not only as a near equal but even as the new leader.

When Yitzchak knew that his father had decided to arrange a wife for him, he prepared a non-matriarch wife for Avraham. When he married her and learned that indeed she was a not only a wife but a spiritual successor of his mother, he realized that it was time for him to take center stage. This allowed Avraham to subsequently marry Ketura, with the knowledge that he would have to send away the children that he would have after his "patriarchal retirement" (ibid. 25:6).

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