Chayei Sarah–The Dynamic Figure of Her Generation

And Isaac went out to stroll in the field towards evening, and he raised his eyes and saw and, look, camels were coming. And Rebecca raised her eyes and saw Isaac, and she alighted from the camel. And she said to the servant, “Who is that man walking through the field toward us? And the servant said, “He is my master.”   And she took the veil and covered her face.   (Gen. 24:63-65)

Isaac, the patriarch between Abraham and Jacob, strikes us as by far the most passive of the trio. In chapter 22, he is a sacrificial victim. In chapter 27, he is (prematurely?) old, blind, the victim of a deceit. Here, the journey to find a wife has been undertaken by proxy, through a nameless servant who is acting on Abraham’s (deathbed?) instructions.

Rebecca is the yang to Isaac’s yin. When she first encounters Abraham’s servant (24:18-20), her hospitality and alacrity recall the actions of Abraham himself in chapter 18. You can even see the contrast in the above quoted passage, albeit in muted form. Isaac is strolling aimlessly, it would seem. Rebecca is able to detect the figure of a man moving across the open country. She does not to know who he is yet, but senses that his appearance signals the end of her journey and jumps [lit., “falls”!] off the camel. A conversation with the servant confirms her intuition, and she veils herself, since it is customary for the bride to be veiled in the presence of her bridegroom until the wedding.

Fox considers Rebecca the dynamic figure of her generation. “It is she to whom God reveals his plan, and she who puts in motion the mechanism for seeing that it is properly carried out. She is ultimately the one responsible for bridging the gap between the dream, as typified by Abraham, and the hard-won reality, as realized by Jacob.”

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