Chayei Sarah

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - REBBETZIN ILANA EP­STEIN

“Rais­ing her eyes, Re­becca saw Isaac. She fell from the camel” Ge­n­e­sis 24:64

BE­LIEVE it or not, the To­rah has some re­ally hu­mor­ous mo­ments.

For in­stance, on first see­ing Isaac, Re­becca falls off her camel and veils her face. I’m a lover of ro­man­tic come­dies and this is the per­fect “meet cute”.

Imag­ine hav­ing rid­den on a camel for weeks, per­haps months, to see your be­trothed and be­fore you have had a mo­ment to freshen up your lip­stick or con­sider a change of cloth­ing, you are con­fronted by your fu­ture hus­band.

His first sight of you can­not be trav­el­stained and sit­ting astride a smelly camel. The so­lu­tion? Lean left, fall off (and per­haps out of sight) and cover your face. Un­sur­pris­ingly, the com­men­ta­tors don’t agree with me.

Some com­men­ta­tors say this episode is a les­son in the ob­ser­vance of mod­esty in the face of a man. To me, with re­spect to the com­men­ta­tors not­with­stand­ing, veils don’t re­ally seem to be part of ev­ery­day garb in the To­rah or among the other fore­moth­ers. In fact, the only other time we see a veil in Bereshit is on Tamar, when she dis­guises her­self as a pros­ti­tute.

The Net­ziv (Rabbi Naf­tali Zvi Ye­huda Berlin, died 1893) reads the in­ci­dent of fall­ing of the camel as a har­bin­ger for Isaac and Re­becca’s fu­ture re­la­tion­ship. She is so blown over by his ho­li­ness that she falls off her camel, cov­ers her face and, from that day for­ward, she will al­ways be in­tim­i­dated by her hus­band’s close­ness to God and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween them will be lim­ited.

Per­haps there is an­other way to view this story. “He [Isaac] lifted his eyes and saw… camels; Re­becca lifted her eyes, and saw Isaac”. Was this the first in­ci­dence of love at first sight? This is the only re­la­tion­ship in Bereshit for which the word “love” is em­ployed. And in the man­ner of all good ro­man­tic come­dies, she went weak at the knees and tum­bled head-first into a re­la­tion­ship; and they lived — nearly — hap­pily ever after.

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