Chayei sarah

"And they blessed Rebecca, and said to her: 'Our sister, may you grow into thousands of myriads and may your offspring seize the gates of their foes' Genesis 24:60

By Rabbi Miriam Berger, October 28, 2010

The book of Bereshit is a book of promises. In this parashah, we read how the ancestral promise made to our matriarchs and patriarchs passes from Sarah to Rebecca.

The blessings received by Rebecca here echo that given to Abraham and Sarah for multiple descendants and land in parashat Lech Lecha. Abraham makes it clear to his senior servant, whom he sends on a mission to find Isaac a wife, that although the woman must come from "the old country", Isaac must not go back but he and his wife must continue Abraham and Sarah's journey.

Throughout the parashah divine blessings are invoked, although God remains silent. The blessings that Rebecca's family give her before sending her to meet Isaac recall the image of the angel appearing to Sarah as well as God's telling Abraham that God will "bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you".

This motif of Rebecca representing the fulfilment of the blessing as it passes to the next generation is used today in the bedeken ceremony at a wedding. We bless the bride as Rebecca's family did, surrounded by those who brought her up, in recognition of her need to create a new household and a new link in the chain of tradition. We encourage the bride to be veiled as Rebecca was when she first set her eyes on Isaac. With every chupah we put ourselves in the place of Isaac and Rebecca, acknowledging our responsibility to continue for the next generation the promises made to Abraham and Sarah.

Last updated: 11:31am, October 28 2010