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How many beings would you say are there in a marriage? I mean, there is a man and a woman. If you are really religious about it, maybe there is God too. But let's keep things simple. I mean, there is a man and a woman - so, there's two beings. Right? Now, I still say, wrong! There's something else, too. And our Parshat, I think, reveals them in a very interesting kind of way. LEt me take you on a little journey here.
In this week's Parshat, Abraham dispatches his trustee servant Eliezer to his original homeland, 'Kharan [00:00:32.27]' to try to find somebody suitable for 'Isaac [00:00:36.02]' to marry. Eliezer gets to Kharan and settles on a test. He prays to God and says, that he is going to kind of stand by a well and the woman that offers his camels to drink and offers him to drink, that's a kind woman and that's the person that God has chosen for Isaac's wife. God sort of plays as it were and Rifqah comes along as soon as he finished talking and does what it is that the servant anticipates; offers his camels to drink, offers him to drink. Eliezer presents her with beautiful bracelets, says, "Have I got a man for you!"
She runs, tells her family; they bring him in, they offer him food. He says, "No. Before I eat, I want to tell you what it is that God has said - the divine sign." He repeats the whole thing over and this really is the kind of courtship story, as it were. Rifqah threw the agency at Eliezer.
So, I want to point out a curious thing to you. This story seems to reappear later on in the book of Samuel. It's not that there's just a couple of words here and there; the book of Samuel reminds you of the story. There is event after event; each one of these events happens in order. Let me sketch out the events of the Genesis. For those of you who are familiar with the book of Samuel, guess what story is it that I'm thinking about.
Okay, so here is the first element. Eliezer comes to town, right? He's there by the well: 'Hebrew [00:01:51.07]', "And the women of the village were going out to draw water from the well." That exact phrase appears in the book of Samuel and nowhere else in the Torah, besides Genesis. But it's not just that phrase. Immediately after that, "'Hebrew [00:02:05.21]' - just as he was finishing." The Hebrew word 'Terah [00:02:09.26]' appears not just in Genesis, but then again, in this other story in the book of Samuel. And right after 'Terah [00:02:14.10]', "'Hebrew [00:02:15.12]' - Say and behold!" Rifqah was going out and that, in the story in the book of Samuel, "Behold!" Someone else was going out. The same words, 'Hebrew [00:02:23.23]' and then right after that, Rifqah goes to the well. "'Hebrew [00:02:27.00]' - she fills out her jug; 'Hebrew [00:02:29.14]' - and goes up." 'Going up' is the next element in the book of Samuel.
You go a little further into the Genesis story, Rifqah goes in and tells her family about this. The man from the family comes out, Laban, and says, "Hey! Why are you standing outside? Come inside and come to eat." Except that, the person being invited says, "No, no, no. I only want to tell you about the divine secret that just happened."
Well, that same thing happened to the Book of Samuel. What story has all of these elements, every single one, in order, in the Book of Samuel? And in the Book of Genesis?
It's the selection of 'Saul [00:03:02.28]' as the first King of Israel. Here's the story: Saul was just a regular, everyday guy. And his father has dispatched him to look for his donkeys. And he is going around with his servant and he is searching for these donkeys; they can't find them. The servant says, "Hey, I hear there is a Prophet in the next town over. Let's ask the Prophet; maybe he can tell us where those donkeys are." So they're looking around and they can't find the Prophet. But, "'Hebrew [00:03:21.11]' - they found these girls that were going out to draw water from the well." They asked the girls, "So, where is this Prophet?" They say, "He's in the town." And he goes out on this stage - on this altar - to offer offerings publicly. The 'Hebrew [00:03:36.25]' just before he goes up on the 'Hebrew [00:03:40.15]'. "Behold! Samuel goes out to greet them." "Behold! Here comes Rebecca; Behold! Here's come Samuel." It's the moment, right before the meeting of these two special people. In this case, Samuel and Saul. There, Eliezer and Rifqah.
And then, just on cue, 'Hebrew [00:03:57.15]'. Where is Samuel going? He is going up on the stage. And how Rifqah was going up? Picking up her jug!
The book of Samuel then says that God has told Samuel the day before that God wants Samuel to anoint as king, someone for the trial of Benjamin. And now, God tells Samuel, "That's the one! Right over there!" Samuel invites Saul to go up on the stage and eat with him, and then says, "Hey! I want to tell you this divine secret!" He tells him that he is to be the first king of Israel.
So, its really quite remarkable. We are not just talking about a couple of words here and there; we're talking about one event after another, and after another, and after another - that same word. And the question is, why is the Book of Samuel echoing the Book of Genesis here? What is the author of the Book of Samuel want you to understand?
The most obvious connection between these stories is that someone special is being selected. In the case of Genesis, it is Rifqah being selected as a wife of Isaac; in the case of the Book of Samuel, it is Saul who is selected as the king for Israel. Both of these selection happened through a kind of partnership between God and people. God helped someone find another special person. THere is a chosen person being selected for a job, but what kind of job? I mean, here, it's almost as the comparison breaks down because in the first case, she is elected for marriage. In the second case, he is selected for kingship. Is there some kind of connection between marriage and kingship? The two aren't really the same.
But I think that there really is a kind of very common kind of connection between kingship and marriage. Kingship and marriage are really about the formation of a new kind of entity. In marriage, who are the participants? A man and a woman makes a marriage. So, there are two person who has to think about marriage. The man has to think about himself, but also has to think about his wife. The wife has to think about herself, but also has to think about her husband. That's true, but that's not the whole truth. There's 'he', there's 'she', and then a 'we'. The 'we' is a real entity, too. Together, they have created a new being, a 'Hebrew [00:05:49.28]' family.
It's actually the same thing with kingship. In 'Hebrew [00:05:53.14]' - Abraham gets a strange promise. We talked about this in last year's 'Hebrew [00:05:57.17]' video. The promise is composed of three parts. The first is, "You'll have lots of children." The second is, "You're children will become a nation." The third is, "Kings will come from you."
So, the kings in the first claim sounds like a cherry on top; but it's just not the cherry on top. It is a direct line that connects all of these promises. They are all about the formation of a 'Hebrew [00:06:14.26]'. Having lots of children does not a nation make! God says, "Not only will you have lots of children, but they're going to come together into a nation." But a nation isn't really a nation until it has some sort of a form of government. "Kings will come off you!" - that will really call it a nation. Because what do kings do? What is the job of a king? To look out for that third entity which is so easily ignored; not just the 'he', not just the 'she', but the 'we'.
I remember recently when the three boys were kidnapped in the West Bank, and ultimately murdered, Racheli Frankel - the mother of one of these children, was asked by a rather insensitive reporter, before it was found that the children were murdered, "Which you want: the Prime Minister to swap hundreds of thousands of Palestinians militants for her son?" And she said, "It may be something that I, as a mother, want. But I don't think the Prime Minister of Israel should be sending policy for his country by asking mothers of kidnapped victims what it is that they want."
She was saying a deep and a biting truth. Every citizen of the country would think first, of themselves. And after themselves, they would think about other citizens of the country. But it is the job of the leader to think of the 'we' - the collective 'what's best' for the nation as a whole. It's the existence of a king, the chief executive, to hold the nation together that makes it into a 'we'. If you look at Shakespeare and how Shakespeare describe the kings, he describes them by the name of the nation: 'Denmark', 'Scotland'. This is how you talk about the king; the king embodies the community.
What was the very first 'we' that was created once Abraham got the promise that he would be the 'father of a great nation'? The very first coming-together of the individuals to make a 'we' was the marriage of his child, Isaac with Rebekah. Through that marriage, the beginning of a promise of children would come to Abraham. That promise communated with the gift of kings to Israel; through those kings, a nationality would be created. Another sanctified entity would come into being, also inspiring great joy - the celebrations of coronation, which the Book of Samuel talks about. It's like marriage on a national scale. It's the great macrocosmic 'we' that comes into being.
When an individual is entering into a 'we', the challenge is for them to take that 'we' seriously. You see, individuals are tangible. It is easy to see another individual to worry about 'my needs', 'your needs'. The 'we' is abstract. The challenge of a king, the challenge of a leader, the challenge of an executive, is to make the 'we' happen, to worry about it. The challenge of a man and a woman united in marriage is to make that 'we' come to. Through their united action, they bring a new entity into being; an entity that they must take seriously, and not discard easily. A sanctified 'we' that is their marriage and that is their family.
1. Bereishit: Thank You, God...For Not Making Me A Woman?
2. Noach: Why Aren't Dinosaurs In the Torah?
3. Lech Lecha: The Battle For Abraham's Legacy
4. Vayeira: Abram, Sarai, Hagar, Ishmael and...Exodus?
5. Vayeira: Epilogue
6. Chayei Sarah: Eliezer and Samuel's Surprising Connection
7. Toldot: What Is Isaac's Legacy?
8. Vayeitzei: Understanding Rachel's World
9. Vayishlach: From Jacob to Israel
10. Vayeishev: Does God Speak To Us Today?
11. Miketz: Reversing the Sale of Joseph
12. Vayigash: Understanding Pharaoh's Dream
13. Shmot: Does God Really "Love" Us?
14. Va'era: Seeing God in Science
15. Bo: God's Justice In Action
16. Beshalach: Fruit Trees In the Sea?
17. Beshalach: Epilogue
18. Yitro: Seeing Ten Commandments in the Burning Bush
19. Mishpatim: Does Our History Become Laws?
20. Mishpatim: Epilogue
21. Terumah: Angels In the Tabernacle? Part I/2
22. Tetzaveh: Angels In the Tabernacle?- Part 2/2
23. Ki Tisa: A Closer Look At Kiddush
24. Vayakhel-Pekudei: God In Space, God In Time
25. Vayikra: How Can We Relate To Sacrifices Today?
26. Tzav: A Deeper Look At The Priestly Role
27. Tzav: Epilogue
28. Shemini: What Does Aaron Teach Us About Loss?
29. Tazria-Metzora: Rejoining the Community
30. Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Social Justice...and Sacrifices?
31. Emor: An Epic View of Jewish Holidays
32. Behar-Bechukotai: Walking With God
33. Bamidbar: Why We Count
34. Beha'alotecha: Where It All Went Wrong
35. Shelach: How Can We Relate To Such a Vengeful God?
36. Korach: Why Did Korach Rebel?
37. Chukat: Why Did Moses Hit The Rock?
38. Balak: What Is Israel's Purpose In The World?
39. Pinchas: What Is True Leadership?
40. Matot-Masei: The Art of Negotiation
41. Devarim: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 1/2
42. Va'etchanan: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 2/2
43. Eikev: Why Does The Nation Of Israel Merit The Land?
44. Why Do We Need Both Oral and Written Law?
45. Shoftim: The Significance of Saving Private Ryan
46. Ki Teitzei: How To Merit Long Life
47. Ki Tavo: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 1
48. Nitzavim: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 2/2
49. Vayeilech: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 1/3
50. Ha'azinu: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 2/3
51. V'Zot Habracha: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 3/3
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