Notes for Rebekah "Rebecca" bint BETHUEL: Rebeccah From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Rebeccah (Rebekah or Rivkah) (??????? "Captivating", "Enchantingly Beautiful", "Noose" or "Snare", Standard Hebrew Rivqa, Tiberian Hebrew Ri?qah) is the wife of Isaac. Her story is told in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
The news of Rebeccah's birth is told to her great-uncle, Abraham, after Abraham returns from Akeidat Yitzchak (the binding of Isaac), the episode in which he was told by God to bring Isaac as a sacrifice on a mountain. Rebeccah is the daughter of Bethuel and the granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham's brother. Rebeccah's brother is Laban, who will later become the father-in-law of Rebeccah's son, Jacob.
Marriage to Isaac
Rebecca at the Well, by Giovanni Battista PiazzettaAccording to the Midrash, Rebeccah was 3 years old when Abraham sent his loyal servant Eliezer to his family's homeland in Aram-Naharayim to find a wife for Isaac. The story of how Eliezer determines who would be a good wife for Isaac has been held up as a model for what to look for in a shidduch (Jewish marriage match). When Eliezer and his traveling companions arrive at the outskirts of town, Eliezer makes his camels kneel beside the well where the daughters of the townspeople come to draw water for their families. Then he prays to God, "Let it be that the girl to whom I will say, 'Please tip over your jug so I can drink,' will say, 'Drink, and I will also water your camels,' that is the one You have designated for Your servant, for Isaac..." (Genesis 24:14).
Eliezer wants to test Rebeccah's capacity for chessed (kindness), a key trait in the national character of the future Jewish people. Drawing water for a thirsty stranger is one level of kindness, but offering to go ahead and water all 10 camels in Eliezer's retinue is a strenuous undertaking, requiring the drawing of much water until the camels had drunk their fill. Rebeccah performs all these tasks with alacrity, proving to Eliezer that he has found a bride worthy of Isaac. He gives her special jewelry and clothing as a bridal gift.
Rebeccah's family is not so eager to send her off to marry Isaac, insisting that their guest remain a few months so the bride can get ready. According to the Midrash, the evil Bethuel even tries to poison Eliezer's drink, but the loyal servant refuses to eat or drink anything until he finishes telling his story. An angel switches the drinks on the table, so that Bethuel drinks from the poisoned cup instead, and dies. (His absence is inferred from the fact that in Genesis 24:50, both Laban and Bethuel speak with their visitor, but when Eliezer finishes talking and brings out gifts, "he gave tasty delicacies to her brother and mother" [Genesis 24:53].)
When Rebeccah's family sends her away to marry Isaac, they bless her with a blessing that is still bestowed on brides in religious Jewish weddings today: "Our sister, may you come to be thousands of myriads, and may your offspring inherit the gate of their enemies" (Genesis 24:60).
Rebeccah first glimpses Isaac from afar, as he stands in the field praying. She immediately falls off her camel and covers her face with a veil. Most commentators explain that she alighted quickly in order to present herself in a modest fashion. The act of veiling herself also hints to the Jewish wedding custom called bedecken, in which the groom veils the bride before the ceremony. Isaac takes Rebeccah into his mother Sarah's tent (meaning, he introduces her to Jewish laws and customs), marries her, and loves her. According to the Midrash, the three special miracles which characterized Sarah's tent, and which disappeared with her death, reappear with the entrance of Rebeccah: a lamp burns from the eve of Shabbat to the eve of Shabbat, there is a blessing in the dough, and a cloud (signifying the Divine Presence) hovers over the tent.
 Motherhood Like the other Matriarchs, Sarah and Rachel, Rebeccah is infertile for many years. Finally, after 20 years of marriage, hers and Isaac's prayers are answered when she conceives. The "child" struggles within her so violently, however, that she goes to inquire of a man of God what kind of a child she is carrying. She is told that she is actually bearing twins who represent opposing nations, and that "the elder shall serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23). This prophecy characterizes the future relationship of Esau's and Jacob's offspring, the Romans and the Jewish people, respectively. Rebeccah does not share this prophecy with her husband, however.
At the birth, the first child to emerge from the womb is ruddy and hairy; he is named Esau (from the Hebrew word for "already made"). The second child to emerge is grasping the heel of Esau, as if to pull him back and assert his own right to be born first; he is named Jacob (from the Hebrew word for "heel").
As the twins grow up, their differences are apparent. Jacob is "a dweller in tents" (meaning a herdsman - a livestock farmer) and Esau is "a man of the fields." (meaning an agriculturalist - a crop farmer). Isaac loves Esau for the game that he catches and prepares for him, but Rebeccah loves Jacob.
When a famine strikes Canaan, Isaac and Rebeccah are forced to travel to the land of Gerar. Fearing that the Philistines who live there will kill him in order to take his attractive wife, Isaac tells the Philistines that Rebeccah is his sister much like his father, Abraham, did twice before. One day, however, the king, Abimelech, peeks through their window and sees "Isaac sporting with his wife" (Genesis 26:8), and chastises Isaac for his deception.
 Deceiving Isaac When Isaac is old and blind, he decides to bestow his blessing on his firstborn son, Esau. He sends Esau out to the field to trap and cook for him a piece of savory game, so that he will eat and drink and be in a happy state of mind when he blessed him. Rebeccah overhears this exchange and realizes that Jacob is more deserving of the blessing, based on the prophecy she received before the twins' birth. She orders Jacob to bring her two goats from the flock, and cooks them in the way Isaac likes. When Jacob protests that his father will recognize the deception as soon as he feels him—since Esau is a hairy man and Jacob is smooth-skinned—Rebeccah lays the goatskins on his arms and on the smooth of his neck to simulate hairy skin, and dresses Jacob in Esau's clothes which Esau keeps in his mother's house. Thus disguised, Jacob goes in to his father and succeeds in receiving his blessing.
When Esau returns from the hunt to receive his blessing and discovers the deception, he vows in his heart to kill Jacob. Rebeccah prophetically perceives his murderous intentions and orders Jacob to travel to her brother Laban's house until Esau's anger subsides. She convinces Isaac to send Jacob away by telling him that she despairs of him marrying a local girl from the idol-worshipping families of Canaan (as Esau has done).
 Death and burial Jacob is away from home for 22 years. As he is returning to Canaan with his large family, servants, and possessions, Deborah, the nurse of Rebeccah, dies and is buried at a place that Jacob calls Alon Bachot (???? ?????), "Tree of Weepings" (Genesis 35:8). According to the Midrash, the plural form of the word "weeping" indicates a double sorrow, implying that Rebeccah also died at this time. Her death is covered up, however, for varying reasons:
Neither Isaac, Esau, or Jacob are present at the burial, so Rebeccah is buried by her neighbors, which is somewhat of an embarrassment. Esau is present at the burial, but Jacob isn't, which reflects badly on Jacob's inability to perform this last mitzvah of honoring his mother. Rebeccah is buried quickly and without eulogies, for it would be a disgrace to publicize that she was the mother of a wicked person like Esau. According to tradition, Rebeccah is buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
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