Comfort and Love – Hayye Sarah 5780

D'var Torah | Genesis

What is implied by the text is just as important as what the text itself says. For example, the scriptural narrative (Genesis 24:6-7) notes that when Isaac married Rebecca, he brought her into his mother’s tent and was comforted by his wife after his mother’s death. More than a paean of Isaac’s love for Rebecca, the implication of the text is that Isaac was fixated on his mother. It is his mother’s tent that serves as his wife’s new home and it is his mother’s death that has preoccupied him. The Midrash Ha-Gadol uses the image of light to express how Isaac overcame his sense of loss. When Sarah died, light left the tent. But when Rebecca was brought in, the light was restored. Isaac was relieved of his melancholy by Rebecca’s enlightening presence.


The Zohar incisively notes that the Torah does not say that Rebecca brought Isaac comfort after the death of his mother but that Rebecca brought Isaac comfort “after his mother” (Genesis 24:7). The Zohar concludes that it was Rebecca’s similarity to Sarah that brought Isaac comfort. Rebecca looked like Sarah. And, as likely, Rebecca behaved like Sarah. Isaac needed his mother. In her absence, he needed someone like his mother. That someone was Rebecca. Indeed, it otherwise would be hard to explain how Isaac would be so reconciled to embrace a woman he had never seen before in his life.


The fact that Isaac married someone like his mother does not make him any less a compelling or strong character. In fact, contemporary marriage counselors would assert that Isaac behaved no differently than people today. For reasons that cannot be overlooked or underestimated, each person looks for a mate who is like one’s parents, on the one hand, and who is not like one’s parents, on the other hand. Marriage therapists like Dr. Harville Hendrix (Getting the Love You Want), use the term “imago” to suggest that we create an image of the mate we seek based upon the needs we have and that had been met by parents, or the needs we have that had not been met by our parents. In either case, it is our parents who unconsciously shape our choice in partners.


Isaac needed the safety and protection that Sarah provided him in recovering from the ordeal he endured at the hands of his father. At that moment in his life, Isaac required a mate who would love him unconditionally and shield him from any imagined betrayal. Sensitively and appropriately, the text emphasizes this point.


Words to Live By

What lies behind you and what lies ahead of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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