Friday, November 17, 2006

Hayyei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

Another set of notes, comments, thoughts. This time, on Hayyei Sarah.

+ "Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the Lord ..." (Gen. 24:2-3) -- I didn't know, but such an oath was common in many Near Eastern cultures. Interestingly, the words "testify" and "testimony" originate with "testes." Why? Well, according to commentary, the genital organ is where "the power of procreation resides", thereby invoking the "presence and power of G-d as the guarantor of the oath." Additionally, the Sages say the genital organ was involved because "it was marked by the covenant" of b'rit milah.

+ There is a discussion among the rabbis about Gen. 22 and Gen. 47. In the former, it says that the servant "took a gold nose-ring weighing a half-shekel and two gold bands for her arms, ten shekels in weight" and THEN asked her who she was. In verse 47, as he relays the events to the household in the latter verse, he says "I inquired of her, 'Whose daughter are you?' And she said ... And I put the ring on her nose and the bands on her arms."

Now, the commentary from Rashi on verse 22 says that the servant lavished her with the gifts without first knowing her identity because his prayer to G-d had been immediately answered (in that he was looking for a wife for Isaac). But I don't think it can be taken from that first verse that he gave her the items before learning her name. In fact, nowhere in verses 21 through 27 does it ever say that he GAVE her the items, or ADORNED her with the items. It simply says that "the man took ..." What I gather from this is that she gave the camels water as he looked on, he removed these gold items from the load, then began a conversation with her, after which he probably gave her the items. But because it doesn't say, the only evidence is from Gen. 47. Thus, I disagree with Rashi about the order of events between the servant and Rebekah. Disagree with Rashi? Oh yah. You heard me.

+ Some interesting things about love and marriage in this parsha. It insists that Rebekah is asked to consent to the wedding, she isn't merely ushered off at the bidding of her brother. This, of course, makes me wonder about arranged marriage and the idea of nonconsent from the bride. Additionally, Rebekah and Isaac consummate their relationship, but according to the commentary, he only loved Rebekah AFTER he marries her. As it reads, "Their love is the result, not the prerequisite, of their relationship." Interesting, nu?