Sunday, October 31, 2010

Proving Rivkah's Virtue

Summary: A fascinating midrash, in which Rivkah proves that she did not have relations with Eliezer on the way.

Post: I present here a rather interesting, "unlucky" midrash. Recall that Rivkah was chaste in Charan. The pasuk and Rashi, citing the midrash:

16. Now the maiden was of very comely appearance, a virgin, and no man had been intimate with her, and she went down to the fountain, and she filled her pitcher and went up.טז. וְהַנַּעֲרָ טֹבַת מַרְאֶה מְאֹד בְּתוּלָה וְאִישׁ לֹא יְדָעָהּ וַתֵּרֶד הָעַיְנָה וַתְּמַלֵּא כַדָּהּ וַתָּעַל:
a virgin: from the place of her virginity. — [Gen. Rabbah 60:5]בתולה: ממקום בתולים:
and no man had been intimate with her: in an unnatural way. Since the daughters of the gentiles would preserve their virginity but were promiscuous in unnatural ways, Scripture attests that she was completely innocent. — [Gen. Rabbah ad loc.]ואיש לא ידעה: שלא כדרכה, לפי שבנות הגוים היו משמרות מקום בתוליהן ומפקירות עצמן ממקום אחר, העיד על זו שנקיה מכל:

Yet it took something to convince Yitzchak of Rivkah's virtue:

67. 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.סז. וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ:
to the tent of Sarah his mother: He brought her to the tent, and behold, she was Sarah his mother; i.e., she became the likeness of Sarah his mother, for as long as Sarah was alive, a candle burned from one Sabbath eve to the next, a blessing was found in the dough, and a cloud was attached to the tent. When she died, these things ceased, and when Rebecca arrived, they resumed (Gen. Rabbah 60:16).האהלה שרה אמו: ויביאה האהלה ונעשית דוגמת שרה אמו, כלומר והרי היא שרה אמו, שכל זמן ששרה קיימת היה נר דלוק מערב שבת לערב שבת, וברכה מצויה בעיסה, וענן קשור על האהל, ומשמתה פסקו, וכשבאת רבקה חזרו:
for…his mother: It is the way of the world that, as long as a person’s mother is alive, he is attached to her, but as soon as she dies, he finds comfort in his wife. — [Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 32.]אחרי אמו: דרך ארץ כל זמן שאמו של אדם קיימת כרוך הוא אצלה, ומשמתה הוא מתנחם באשתו:

We can say that there was chashad, that he suspected Eliezer of sleeping with her on the way, and Eliezer needed to justify himself to his master. Thus:

66. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.סו. וַיְסַפֵּר הָעֶבֶד לְיִצְחָק אֵת כָּל הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה:

Meanwhile, what is the reason for his suspicion? That she had somehow lost her betulim. When? When she fell from the camel:

64. And Rebecca lifted her eyes, and saw Isaac, and she let herself down from the camel.סד. וַתִּשָּׂא רִבְקָה אֶת עֵינֶיהָ וַתֵּרֶא אֶת יִצְחָק וַתִּפֹּל מֵעַל הַגָּמָל:

With this setup, not all of which is overtly stated in the midrash, let us examine the Midrash Aggada inside:

"and she fell from the camel" -- actual falling {rather than descending}. And in this falling, she lost her virginity. She thought she saw her husband and therefore she fell.

"the tent of Sarah his mother" -- that he found her to be as virtuous as Sarah his mother... {the midrash about the clouds, light, etc.} ...

"and Yitzchak was comforted after his mother" -- so long as a man's mother is alive, his love goes after his mother. If his mother dies, his love goes to his wife. And some say that he didn't find her to be a virgin {when he had intercourse with her} and he suspected Eliezer. Rivkah said 'Forfend! For Eliezer did not sleep with me, but rather because of the falling, that I fell, I lost my virginity. And let us arise and travel to that place where I fell, and perhaps Hashem will perform a miracle and we will find there the blood of virginity.' And so did they do; they went and discovered the blood on a tree / piece of wood, such that she was a mukat etz {one who had lost her virginity as a result of impact with a piece of wood}. And this blood, {the angel} Gavriel had guarded it such that no bird or wild animal had eaten of it. And since he suspected Eliezer where he had done nothing wrong, and he had faithfully performed the agency set by Avraham, he merited to enter Gan Eden alive.

The midrashic account here does not explicitly point out all the pesukim I did above, particularly Eliezer relating all that he had done, but presumably this is the midrashic drive. (Also, we should check out Yalkut Shimoni on this.)

Poor Eliezer! For this is not the first time he was unjustly suspected of having had intercourse with Rivkah. According to Bereishit Rabbati, from Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan, when Lavan ran to Eliezer, and subsequently tried to poison him, it was because he saw all the adornments Eliezer had given Rivkah, and so, thought he had compromised her.

Also, I see similarities to Tristan and Isolde, where he takes the bride for himself instead of delivering her to King Mark. Though I'm fairly that the midrashim predate this story.


Hillel said...

R' Waxman,
"zachah sheyikanes l'gan eden chai"???

joshwaxman said...

yup. if you follow the link, see the wonder in the Haarot and Tikkunim.



joshwaxman said...

i deleted your comment. sorry, jerks are not welcome here.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...

Again, you are not welcome here. You are

(a) Pseudonymous
(b) a hater
(c) ignorant
(d) illiterate

I don't owe you anything, that I need to let you deface my blog. Even if you let my comment through. That does not mean that I owe you anything.

Learn to be polite, and I might let a comment of yours through. But I won't award stupid, ignorant behavior.

I sometimes take controversial positions here, but I try to do so using my own name, in a respectful manner. Ultimately, that makes me responsible for my own remarks.

kol tuv,


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