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 10, 2018 07:11PM
I thank Rabbi Blau for advocating approaching this Midrash through an analysis of the Peshat of the text. Rabbi Blau has laid a good foundation. I wish to supplement his explanation (which I will repeat) with 2 (minor) facts overlooked by him.

Using the Peshat analysis I present below, we find that Rivkah married at 15 years, that is 3 years into puberty. So, the Midrashic statement that she was “three years" refers to three years from puberty, or three years during which she was capable of childbirth (bath shalosh lelaydah).

Although I am deviating from the literal translation of the text, I am doing so because the Peshat of the text suggests Rivkah was 15.

Before proceeding, we should always read a Midrash with an eye to its relevance. Rivkah is praised as not having any type of physical contact. If the Midrash says she was 15, the Midrash is expressing its opinion that if you want to avoid teenage sin, you should marry people off at 15.

This is very relevant to us. There has been discussion about drugs in High Schools on Lookjed. Drugs and everything associated with them comes when you delay marriage beyond 15. So, this midrash is very relevant. Of course, no individual on this list is responsible; but perhaps we should have a long-term goal to allow and encourage more marriages around 15, differing from the greater society in which we live.

In passing, the 15-year age ties in with another piece of relevance: How much "dating experience" or simply experience socializing with men should someone have before marriage. Those Rebbeim involved in divorce would like more dating experience so as to minimize divorce. Those Rebbeim involved in marriage want less dating experience so as to avoid the possibility of unwanted sin. It would appear to me (and Rav Hirsch says this) by stating Rivkah was 15 vs.12 or 18 the Torah says she had just enough experience to know what she wanted but to still naturally avoid sin.

I invite a separate discussion thread on this relevance.

Now to the Peshat. As I indicated there are two minor points omitted by Rabbi Blau. The first is a principle of grammar (mentioned by Rashi but also justifiable from an examination of verses): The word ACHAR means IMMEDIATELY AFTER while ACHARAY means SOMETIME LATER. This immediately implies that 1) the Akaydah happened IMMEDIATELY after the banishment of Ishmael and 2) the news of Milkah's children happened SOMETIME LATER.

Just to echo what Rabbi Blau mentioned: If we assume that the Akaydah and Sarah's death were close to each other then the sandwiched paragraph about Milkah's children would have also happened IMMEDIATELY at the same time of the Akaydah (and this contradicts the grammar).

The second point to emphasize is WHY Ishmael was banished: "Because Sarah did not like the way Ishmael played with brother Isaac." Here, clearly, we are not talking about playing with an infant or even a 5-year-old. Rather, as Isaac grew up, he naturally looked to big brother, for guidance. As Isaac reached puberty, Ishmael, Sarah felt, was steering him in bad ways. It was at that point that she told Abraham, "Isaac is now becoming a teenager; these are formative years; we can't have Ishmael around as a bad influence." So, the banishment of Ishmael happened when Isaac was 11-13. And the Akaydah, happened immediately after.

But SOMETIME LATER, Abraham heard about Milkah (Also note the verse: Abraham was told SOMETIME LATER; BEHOLD (Note the emphasis); ...) In passing, the story is contrastive. Abraham had to "give up" his two children (Ishmael and Isaac) while Milkah kept his children. In any event Milkah had 8 children. Bethuel was the youngest. Bethuel couldn't have given birth to Rivkah when he was just born!!! So there had to be at least 13 years at which time he got married (and gave birth that first year).

So, there you have it: 11-13 years after Isaacs' birth, Ishmael was banished. 13 years later (plus 1 year for gestation) Rivkah was born. That puts Isaac's minimal age at Rivkah's birth at 11+13+1 = 25 (or perhaps 13+13+1=27).

We know that Isaac married Rivkah at 40. Hence Rivkah was either 15 (if Isaac was 25 at her birth) or 13 (ala Rambam, if Isaac was 27 at her birth).

In passing, there isn't much more leeway here. In summary, I think a simple reading of the text shows Rivkah between 13 and 15. The relevance of the 15 years to the issues of i) avoiding teenage sin and ii) experience socializing with men, has been mentioned earlier.

Respectfully
Russell Jay Hendel; Ph. D; www.Rashiyomi.com/



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/10/2018 07:12PM by mlb.
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Could Yitzchak have married Rivkah when she was three?

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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?

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

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

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