Parshat Chayei Sarah begins with the death of Sarah and then continues to speak about how Abraham sends his loyal servant Eliezer, to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham tells Eliezer that she must be a kind person. Eliezer travels to Charan and meets Rebecca. She returns with Eliezer to marry Isaac. It is written regarding Isaac and Rebecca that after their wedding “she became his wife and he loved her.” This seems to contradict our modern view of marriage, which starts with romantic “love.” In a strong union, the intimacy and challenges of marriage and childrearing should indeed lead to a deeper love than anything dating can instill.

Abraham’s insistence on kindness as an essential characteristic in any daughter-in-law is an important lesson on what qualities to value in potential spouses. Kindness is a subtly demonstrated character trait. There are no awards for kindness-no Nobel Prize or Guinness World Records for kindness. Abraham Joshua Heschel once reflected that when he was young, he admired clever people; but that as he grew older he admired kind people. There is an old Yiddish aphorism that “he who marries for money, earns it.” When spouses are chosen for the wrong reasons, the result can be great and prolonged suffering. As another aphorism warns, “marry in haste, repent at leisure.”

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