These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

חיי שרה

Posted on November 17, 2011 by Barer

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This week’s parsha, with bookends describing the death of Sarah and the other descendents of Avraham and the descendents Yishma’el, deals mainly with the mission of Avraham’s servant to find a wife for Yitzchak. Reading the text, I was struck by how repetitive the story is. First, Avraham tells his servant what to do in a detailed way, including not to allow Yitzchak to leave his home to marry, and to ensure that the prospective wife not be a Cana’anite (24:2-9). Next, the servant approaches the well in the city of Nachor (24:10) and prays to Hashem that he be shown who the right woman for Yitchak is, again in a detailed fashion, where the servant asks for the specific sign that the woman be generous in giving him and his camels to drink when asked (24:12-14). Then we read the account of his prayer being answered (24:15-20). The servant is then extremely excited that his prayer is answered, and after bestowing copious amounts of jewelery on Rivka and being accepted into the house of her father, the servant tells the whole story again, from the beginning (24:38-48)! Granted, each portion of this narrative is told either by a different person or to a different person or set of people, but if all narratives in the Torah were recounted in this way, we would have to get up very early each week to be able to finish listening to the parsha and still find time for lunch. So what are we supposed to make of all the repetition? Certainly, the major themes are Hashem answering prayers, and the extreme importance of finding a suitable wife for Yitzchak. This is the first, and by no means the last, mention in the Torah of a serious amount of effort being put into finding a suitable match for a protagonist of the story, and maybe the repetition is just meant to impress upon the reader how important this task is for Avraham, and how it will be just as important in future generations.

Hashem blessed my task

Finding a wife for Yitzchak

To please Avraham