A Word from Rabbi Schulman - 11/10/17

We learn of a specific Jewish wedding practice based on this week’s parasha. Abraham charges his servant, Eliezer, with finding a bride for Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham stipulates that this future bride must consent to marry Isaac. She cannot be forced to marry against her will. After a long journey, Eliezer spots a beautiful young maiden from Abraham’s hometown. Eliezer makes the case to the maiden’s father and brother that she is the perfect match for Isaac. Though in Biblical days fathers and brothers controlled the lives of women in their families, nonetheless the men are compelled to ask whether Rebekah would give her consent. “Let us call the girl and ask for her reply” (Gn. 24.58). Fortunately, Rebekah knew Isaac would make quite a catch. She gives her consent, and she leaves with the servant to meet her future husband. Centuries later the rabbis developed a more elaborate system of betrothal. During a wedding service, the groom places a ring upon the finger of his bride and says, “With this ring, be my bride, according to the laws of Moses and Israel.” Though she has accepted an object of value, worth at least two prutahs according to Talmudic calculation (you could substitute a head of cabbage if you like, though I doubt this will do much to impress the bride), she must still voice her consent for the wedding to be kosher. In my years of officiating at weddings, I’ve heard many responses by brides. Some have offered a traditional: “I do.” Some have murmured, “Yes, oh yes.” And then there was the time when, at a more casual wedding, the young bride responded with “You betcha.” That was good enough for the groom and for those who were present during the ceremony. It’s been a long time since I officiated at that couple’s wedding. I bet they’re still happily married.

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