Granted the first marriage was between Adam and Eve. And yes, there were obviously weddings that took place after; Noah, his sons, Abraham and Sarah. But with parsha Chayei Sarah we get the first shidduchim. The Jewish match making process.
After Sarah’s death and burial, Avraham then turns again to focus on the blessings of life. He sends his right hand man Eliezer, to find a suitable bride for Yitzack. And what guidelines is Eliezer given to search for this suitable bride?
The Camel Test.
Eliezer journeys to Avraham’s home town with 10 camels and plops himself in front of the well. He decides to ask women for a drink of water from said well. He will know he has found the right woman when she not only when gives him a drink, but then waters all ten camels. Talk about having a list. Not our usual “this tall, this pretty, has X,Y, and Z goals, or comes from such-and-such family.” Nope. Give me a drink when I ask, then water my camels.
The Trait of Chessed
Chessed, the Jewish concept for kindness, was what Avraham was known for. But that was not Yitzchak’s trait. Sure, Yitzchak was kind, but it wasn’t his defining quality. He was known for gevurah. Gevurah doesn’t have an exact translation into English, so I’ll define it as strength or restraint. Yitzchak’s mother Sarah also possessed gevurah as her primary trait. And this was good because chessed’s compliment is gevurah. Kindness is certainly a Godly trait, but unrestrained giving is not. As a parent, you want to give to your kids, you want to spoil them. But there’s a time to say no.
Yitzchak needed his compliment. And Eliezer’s test would ensure a level of chessed that would match Yitzchak’s level of gevurah.
Yeah, cause opposites attract duh! Wait, what…?
To be clear, “opposites attract” is one of the most unfounded cliches of our world. Unless you’re talking about magnets. Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa would not have made a good couple. Similarities attract. In love, we’re looking for someone who shares our core, is our soul mate (or besherit). Rabbi Denbo has a story to illustrate this point.
You’re backpacking though a remote part of the world. Africa, Russia, China, take your pick. You’ve not heard a word of English in months. Out of nowhere you hear someone talking in an American accent. Ecstatic, you go over to this person and start a conversation. They’re as happy to see you as you are to see them. “You’re from Oregon? I’m from Los Angeles. We have so much in common!” Then you spend the rest of the day with this person.
Finding our besherit, should feel like that. When we say opposites attract, what we really mean is differences compliment. And when Eliezer finds Rivka, sure enough, she does everything Eliezer hopes and more. She takes him to meet her family and the marriage is arranged. On the surface everything seems fine but upon deeper readings from the text, we will come to know that Rebecca’s family isn’t the most moral or kind themselves. Luckily, Rivka was different from them. Had she been like her brother Lavan (who will show up in future Parshas and is generally known as the Torah’s trickster) the marriage between Yitzhak and Rivka would have had serious problems.
Patterns in the Parsha
It’s no coincidence that Chayei Sarah has a circular nature to it. Almost right after Avraham loses Sarah, he sends Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak. The last words the Torah says on that matter is…
And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for [the loss of] his mother. Bereishis 24:67
The line that immediately follows is concerning Avraham’s marriage. The Torah is illustrating the reality of mida k’neged mida or measure for measure. It is a core Jewish belief that what we put out into the world ultimately comes back to us. Some may know this as karma. Whatever you call it, Avraham did for Yitchak, so God did for Avraham. It’s for this nature that blessings are so important and one should avoid cursing others and lashon hara. Wouldn’t you rather have blessings coming back to you than curses and gossip?