Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?
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Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

November 04, 2018 05:59PM
Rabbi Avi Billit once wrote a piece about this here: [www.vosizneias.com]

I also once shared my thoughts about using Midrash as Pshat - see the last column where I use the example of Rivka. [lookstein.org]. I don't think we do our students any favors when we teach a midrash that states she was three as pshat. To say she was mature enough at the age of three to do all the things ascribed to her in the Torah, is indeed difficult to fathom. The Ramban for example says she was thirteen which makes it somewhat more palatable.

Having said that, I would also like to point out that the term “pedophile” would not appear to be accurate in any event. According to Wikipedia the definition of pedophilia is "a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children". Yitzchok only had one wife throughout his lifetime, (he did not continue seeking child brides even after Rivka entered puberty) and he was not even involved in the selection of his Rivka as a bride. He was presented with an arranged marriage to which he agreed. Thus, Yitzchok fails to meet even the modern definition of pedophilia which is "a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children".

One can argue that is mere semantics. Even if it was not “pedophilia” perhaps it was “rape” as she would still be well below the age of consent which the Torah generally considers to be at age twelve for females. In addition, whether we accept the midrash that states Rivka was three or not, we cannot escape the idea that the Torah does in fact allow a father to marry off his daughter to anyone he chooses if she is under the age of twelve.

However, I personally think it is wrong for us to make assumptions and judgments about the sex and marriage customs of people who lived in a different time and a different culture. Marilyn Yalom points out in her book A History of the Wife that for almost all of human history, marriage had very little to do with love and was not viewed as an emotional partnership of equals as it is today in Western and modern culture. The role of the wife revolved around maintaining social status, child bearing and housekeeping in exchange for financial support and stability. (If you think about it, the Torah suggests that a rapist marry his victim. Which victim of sexual assault today would agree to such a marriage proposal? It only makes sense if you have a radically different view of marriage than of what we have today.)

Thus, getting back to the idea of arranged marriages (and particularly for underage girls) apparently it was a societal norm. Even today, it is considered a societal norm in many places around the world. Should we assume all parents who conduct such marriages have no regard for their daughter's emotional well-being? From what I understand, the concept of the arranged marriage is based on the notion that parents generally love their children and are considered to be their guardian. Even in America, the consent of the parent is often the considered the consent of the child. Did some parents take advantage of their children when marrying them off young? Sure. Do arranged marriages always work? Of course not. But neither do love based marriages always work. Apparently, it worked often enough for the custom to have been perpetuated as the societal norm in many places. Thus, I think that while in modern times we equate underage sex with rape (which it is) due to the inability of a child to express legal and emotional consent, I would argue that societies which practiced arranged marriages with child brides viewed this as sex with legal and emotional consent. Particularly, when we consider the goals of women in marrying were not necessarily to have a love-based marriage like has become the common practice in today's day and age. In time it was hoped that a husband would love his wife and in fact that is what happened with Yitzchok and Rivka.

In conclusion, I don’t think we should be quick to judge societies that are very different than our own. I don't want anyone judging me in a hundred years from now for using fossil fuels or not being vegetarian. Social norms evolve over time and a practice that seems abhorrent to one culture might have might a lot of sense to another. If today our values of marriage and rape have shifted, it doesn't mean older ideas surrounding arranged marriages were not proper or logical for the societies who practiced them with a different outlook than ours. Thus, to suggest Yitzchok was some sort of horrible sexual predator or that the Torah in general is unethical for allowing arranged underage marriages to take place merely because our notion of what marriage and sex should be has shifted, is simply wrong and misguided in my opinion.

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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/06/2018 12:02PM by mlb.
Subject Author Posted

Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

David Derovan October 28, 2018 02:16PM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

Sharon Freundel October 29, 2018 01:49PM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

David Fried November 05, 2018 07:13AM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

Alyssa Sonnenblick October 31, 2018 12:26PM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

sasson gabbai October 31, 2018 12:28PM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

tdaum November 04, 2018 05:59PM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

Avraham Norin November 05, 2018 06:46AM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

Yitzchak Blau November 05, 2018 07:45AM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

Russell Jay Hendel November 10, 2018 07:11PM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

Shmuel Silberman November 05, 2018 07:55AM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

Elisha Paul November 10, 2018 07:13PM

Re: Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

David Derovan November 12, 2018 09:29AM



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