Parshat Chaye Sarah

After the burial and mourning over the death of his wife Sarah, Abraham sets about the task of finding a wife for his son Yitzchak. He sends his faithful servant Eliezer off to Padam Aram, explicitly commanding Eliezer not to take a local Cananite wife for his son.

R Meir Simcha M’Dvinsk asks why didn’t Abraham approach Yitzchak directly and tell him not to marry a local girl, rather than passing the message through his servant. He explains that this  proof of the statement by the Rama in the Shulchan Aruch that a man does not have to listen to his parents with regards to the choice of his marriage partner.

Later on in the story, when Eliezer has found Rivka and wishes to bring her back to marry Yitzchak, the Torah clearly tells us that the family asks her if she wants to go, and she replies “yes – I will go”. Rashi comments here that a woman cannot be betrothed without her consent, and additionally she is also entitled to make her own choice, even against the wishes of her parents.

During the middle ages, there were issues of men marrying minors, private agreements, and sometimes what might be called kidnapping, and the Rabbis decreed that marriages must be in public, with at least a minyan present.

Over the ages the concept of the Shidduch is prevalent in some religious circles, but both the man and the woman have free choice, and are without doubt entitled to marry against parental wishes, and this is not considered to be breaking the command of honouring parents.

Interestingly after Eliezer bring out presents the family propose that she does not go straight away but wait a while saying let her wait with us a few days or ten and then she can go. From this the Talmud learns that a bride to be should be given up to a year to prepare herself for getting married, after the family has received the betrothal money, giving her time to buy the right clothes and jewelry etc. R B H Epstein asks why are we are not able to learn this from the story of Esther where she was prepared for a year to meet the King, but answers that there is a general rule that we cannot learn from Royal behaviour

We are now in the land of Kings, in Cambodia and have been visiting all the ancient palaces. The people here are very different from Vietnam but have also had a tough few years suffering from dictatorship, but now the King has returned and they are finding their way again.

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