I saw it coming—at least part of it. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I even hinted that I knew, asking, "Where is the sheep for the offering, my father?" He brushed me off, telling me, "God will provide the sheep, my son." And maybe he believed it when he said it. But I saw the look in his eyes when he bound me to the altar. When he raised that knife, he meant it. Even the acid-burning tear falling from his eye into my own could not blind me to his intent: He meant to kill me! Yes, the angel stopped him, and the ram was offered in my place. But he meant to do it—to me! His son, his only son, his beloved Isaac.
I couldn't stay with him. He returned to Beer-Sheba, but that knife had severed the bond between us as surely as if it had indeed shed my blood. I didn't know where to go. As I came down from the mountain, I learned that my mother had left my father and gone to Hebron. I raced to her, seeking the comfort of her strong embrace, but too late. Convinced of my death at her husband's hands, she had thrown herself to death. What is left for me, what comfort, what strength, what companionship? I am alone...
Alone no longer! When Father came to bury Mother, we had nothing to say to each other even in our grief. And we both felt it, so deeply. But at least he understood. He saw how lost I have been. And today the miracle occurred. All these months, Mother's tent has stood empty—a silent testimony to what all of us have lost. I even went so far as to seek out Hagar and bring her back with me in an effort to heal the wounds of the past. When I returned, Rebecca was there. I had been wandering in the fields. "When will I find peace?" I asked. "How will I find the strength to carry on my father's legacy, and do I even want to?" And there was the answer-the strength and courage blazing from her eyes-so bright it sparkled even through her bridal veil. I love her. I love her and I'm a little frightened of her. She has the strength of my mother and the vision of my father-vision my dimmed eyes will never see. I know she will see that vision fulfilled, whatever it might take. Thank you for sending her to me. Perhaps through her I will become whole.
Note: The ideas for this piece were assembled from a variety of midrashim and commentaries. Together, they form a picture of Isaac's needs and of what he might have been looking for in his arranged marriage to Rebecca.
- Does this story teach us anything about romantic versus arranged marriages? What needs should a marriage meet in order to be perceived as a success?
- The story of the betrothal makes it clear that the true shadchan (matchmaker) in this story is God. How does this match meet God's needs? That is, why might God have wanted these two to be together?
- Is the match between Isaac and Rebecca successful?
Rabbi Rex D. Perlmeter is the founder of The Jewish Wellness Center of Montclair, New Jersey.