Shabbat Table Talks - Haye Sarah

By: Rabbi Ralph Tawil

Who our children associate with as friends is critical in their moral and social development. When our children are very young we choose their friends. As they grow, we choose their schools and they choose their friends, usually from amongst their schoolmates. Which friends will they choose and why is a question that most teens do not spend time thinking about. The question of whom to choose as a friend gets much more critical when we change it to whom to choose as a spouse.

You can begin the discussion about choosing friends and move to the issue of choosing a spouse.

Why is Abraham so concerned about whom Yishaq will marry? (The husband and wife together set the tone in the home. They together bring up the children and create the atmosphere that will properly socialize the children and pass along their good behaviors.)

With younger children discuss the roles that each of the spouses plays in your family. Focus on the positive, of course. Describe the nature of the relationship and the teamwork that is implied in modern marriage.

Read the story of the servant at the well (Genesis chapter 24).

[Method on how to read: Reading can be boring for the family, or it can be dramatic. Itís all in your attitude. Read the portion over first, noticing which points you would like to emphasize by raising or lowering your voice, by gesturing or by inflections (e.g. When the servant prays make believe you are that servant and are actually saying the words in prayer.) A good reading is usually engaging, even if the family is familiar with the story.]

The servant took ten camels from his lordís camels and went, all kinds of good-things from this lord in his hand. He arose and went to Aram Naharayim , to Nahorís town. He had the camels kneel outside the town at the water-well at setting time, at the time when the water-drawers go out, and said:

Hashem, God of my Lord Abraham, pray let it happen today for me, and deal faithfully with my lord Abraham! Here, I have stationed myself by the water spring as the women of the town go out to draw water. May it be that the maiden to whom I say: Pray lower your pitcher that I may drink and she says: Drink, and I will also give your camels to drinkólet her be the one that you have decided on for your servant, for Yishaq, by means of her may I know that you have dealt faithfully with my lord.

And it was: Not yet had he finished speaking, when here, Rivka came out, --she had been born to Betuel, son of Milca, wife of Nahor, brother of Abrahamóher pitcher on her shoulder.

The maiden was exceedingly beautiful to look at, a virgin,--no man had known her. Going down to the spring, she filled her pitcher and came up again.

The servant ran to meet her and said: pray let me sip a little water from your pitcher! She said: Drink, my lord! And in haste she let down her pitcher on her arm and gave him to drink.

When she had finished giving him to drink, she said: I will also draw of your camels, until they have finished drinking. In haste she emptied her pitcher into the drinking-trough, then she ran to the well again to draw, and drew for all his camels. The man kept staring at her, (waiting) silently to find out whether Hashem had granted success of this journey or not.

It was, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man took a gold nose-ring, a half-coin in weight, and two bracelets for her wrists, ten gold pieces in weight, and said:

Whose daughter are you? Pray tell me! And is there perhaps in your fatherís house a place for us to spend the night?

She said to him: I am the daughter on Betuel, son of Milca, whom she bore to Nahor. And she said to him: Yes there is straw, yes. Plenty of fodder (and) yes, a place to spend the night.

In homage the man bowed low before Hashem and said:

Blessed be Hashem, God of my lord Abraham, who has not relinquished his faithfulness and his trustworthiness from my lord. While as for me, Hashem has led my on the journey to the house of my lordís brothers! (Beresheet 24:10-27)

How did the servant know that this was the right choice? How was the servant's sign related to Rivka's character? Was it a character test? Would we have passed that test--offering of our own accord to provide for the travelerís camels?

What is the role of prayer in choosing a friend or a spouse?

What role does beauty play?

What role does family play?

The servant thanked Hashem for helping him find a spouse, (if you have the guts to do it) in front of the children and the guests, thank God for helping you to find your spouse (if you are married.)

For Older Children

Marriage practices of old differ sharply from today's norm. The idea of Abraham's sending his servant to get a wife for his son strikes the modern reader as being inappropriate.

What would be the advantages of the parents having a say in whom to marry? (more experienced, can see the truth of people better, not blinded by love, know the family history--which can effect future behavior.) What would be the disadvantages?

What should the parents' role be in their child's decision of whom to marry? (Notice that in the Torah story, Rivka is, in fact, asked and gives her ok to go with "the man.")

Discuss different reasons why people marry. looks, money, character. What are the most important reasons? Why?

For Young or Old

Discuss with your children the reasons that you married your spouse. Why would you marry her today? Are those reasons identical, have they become deeper? (Articulating these (hopefully) positive feelings about your spouse in front of the children, as well as uncovering for them some of their family prehistory, can help them better understand and absorb the good values of your family.

What were Rivkaís qualities? What qualities would you look for in the person that you will marry? How will you look for them?