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    The first act of marriage described in
    the Torah is the one between Isaac and
    Rebecca, in this week’s portion, Chayei
    Sarah. It is also the first time the Torah
    depicts the love between a man and a
    woman. “And Isaac took Rebecca, she
    became his wife, and he loved her.”
    In the beginning of Genesis, after
    creating the first man and woman,
    Adam and Eve, G-d says: “Therefore
    man should leave his father and mother
    and cleave (v’davak) to his wife,
    and they shall become one flesh.”
    Yet this implies primarily a physical
    relationship, as the verse concludes,
    “they shall become one flesh.” Love, on
    the other hand, is an intense emotional
    bond. It is mentioned for the first time
    first not by Adam and Eve, not by
    Abraham and Sarah, but by Isaac and
    To be sure, Abraham and Sarah enjoyed
    a profoundly loving relationship.
    Married for many decades without
    children, they trailblazed together
    a new trail in history. They heeded
    the voice of G-d to leave behind
    their families and chart
    a new path to change the
    world. Sarah risked her
    life twice for Abraham
    when she maintained
    she was his sister, not his
    wife. Abraham refused
    to cohabit with her maid
    Hagar, but after she
    insisted that he does,
    “Abraham heeded the
    voice of Sarai.” Abraham
    listened to Sarah’s advice
    to expel Ishmael from
    their home, even when he
    personally disagreed. After
    Sarah’s death one senses
    the depth of Abraham’s
    grief and his intricate
    negotiations to grant his
    wife her final honor by burying her in
    the cave where he too would one day
    be interred.
    Yet the Torah’s first usage of the term
    love between spouses is reserved for
    Isaac and Rebecca: “And Isaac took
    Rebecca, she became his wife, and he
    loved her.”
    What is unique about their marriage?
    And why is this sort of description
    never repeated in the Torah?
    Jacob loves Rachel, the Torah tells us.
    But that’s before he married her: “And
    Jacob Loved Rachel, and he said [to
    her father]: “I will work for you for
    seven years for your youngest daughter
    Rachel.” With Jacob and Rachel, the
    love precedes the marriage. With Isaac
    and Rebecca, the love follows the
    marriage. Why the difference?
    What is more, with our other patriarchs
    and matriarchs we observe moments
    of tension (of course relative to their
    lofty and sacred stature). Sarah tells
    Abraham, “I am angry at you.” Rachel
    too complains to Jacob about her
    childlessness; “and Jacob became
    angry at Rachel, saying, ‘Am I in the
    place of G-d?”
    In contrast, between Isaac and Rebecca,
    no friction is ever recorded.
    This was not because they never
    disagreed. To the contrary, the Torah
    states, that Rebecca loved Jacob, while
    Isaac loved Essay. While Isaac wishes
    to bless Esau, Rebecca instructs Jacob
    to dress up like his brother and obtain
    the blessings for himself. That could
    have easily resulted in a quarrel—but
    it did not.
    The sages in the Talmud present a
    fascinating tradition about the three
    daily prayers in Judaism. Abraham
    instituted the morning prayer,
    shacharis; Isaac instituted the afternoon
    prayer—mincha; and Jacob initiated
    the evening prayer, maariv.
    The Talmud derives this from the
    biblical verses. But what is the
    thematic connection between our
    three forefathers and these particular
    prayers? And why do we have three
    daily prayers? (Mohammed instituted
    five daily prayers for Muslims,
    mimicking our Yom Kippur model; yet
    on a daily basis we have three.)
    Morning brings with it a fresh and
    exhilarating energy. As a new day
    emerges, we have this sense (at least
    till we check our phone) that new
    possibilities are beaconing upon us. As
    the first rays of light cast their glow on
    our horizon, a new dawn breaks our
    imagination as well. Morning brings
    with it new frontiers to conquer and
    fresh glimmers of hope. One of the
    great spiritual masters, Rabbi Schneur
    Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812) writes,
    that when a person awakes, he or she
    feels instinctively a sense of happiness
    and promise. We press the restart
    This is the story of Abraham. He
    embodied the morning of Judaism,
    bringing the dawn of a new era to earth.
    He opened humanity to a new reality,
    a new vision. He heralded a novel,
    message. The world is not a hopeless
    jungle; it is a Divine palace. We are not
    an insignificant speck of dust on the
    surface of infinity; we matter. Humanity
    is not a helpless folk subjected to the
    whims of competing gods, but part of a
    single narrative, united in the image of
    a moral and loving Creator. Abraham
    taught that there was purpose in history
    and meaning in life.
    Who was Abraham? “Abraham woke
    up early in the morning to
    the place where he stood
    previously,” the Torah states.
    Then again, when he is
    instructed to bring his son
    to Mt. Moriah, “Abraham
    woke up in the morning.”
    The Torah rarely presents the
    details of daily life, unless
    they convey an important
    theme. Following a long
    and dark night, Abraham
    ushers in the morning
    for civilization. Abraham
    instituted the morning
    (shacharis) prayer, topping
    into the unique spiritual
    energy of daybreak, when
    you stretch out your arms
    and embrace the new day.
    Jacob, in contrast, embodies the night
    of Judaism. The kingdom of night is
    full of mystique, solitude, darkness,
    drama and romance. Jacob’s life is
    raddled with darkness, uncertainty,
    loneliness, struggle and trauma,
    fraught with drama and mystery. In
    the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Why
    do you say, O Jacob, why declare, O
    Israel, ‘My way is hid from the Lord,
    my cause is ignored by my G-d’”?
    No personality in the Torah is so
    connected with night as Jacob. In
    middle of the night, the Torah relates,
    “Jacob remained alone, and a man
    fought with him till dawn broke.”
    Jacob tells his father-in-law Laban:
    “Twenty years I have been with you…
    scorching heat ravaged me by day, and
    frost by night; sleep eluded my eyes.”
    Jacob, says the Torah, “came upon a
    certain place and stopped there for the
    night, for the sun had set. Taking one of
    the stones of that place, he put it under
    his head and lay down in that place.”
    He then dreams of a “ladder standing
    on the ground, but its top reaches
    Jacob taught the Jewish people and
    the world how to encounter the Divine
    during the turbulence and obscurity
    of night. “And Jacob woke up from
    his sleep and he said, ‘Indeed! G-s is
    present in this space, even if I did not
    know it.’” Jacob feels the presence
    of G-d even in a space of darkness
    and adversity, even if his brain can’t
    always figure out how. Jacob created
    the evening prayer—the connection to
    G-d amidst the mystery and drama of
    nightfall. As the sun set again and yet
    again in his life, he traveled internally
    to discover the source of light from
    How about the vibe of afternoon?
    Smack in the middle of a long and
    arduous day, lacking the freshness of
    morning and the mystery of evening,
    afternoons are often characterized
    by monotony. The day in the office
    is dragging on, and I am drained. If I
    am lucky enough to be a house mom
    or dad, afternoon comes with its own
    stress: The children are returning from
    school, dinner is not made, the house
    is a mess, and I am in a bad mood; it’s
    been a long day.
    What is the energy that beacons to us
    during those dull afternoons? What is
    the spiritual heartbeat of the flat hours
    in the day, when I’m just waiting to go
    It is the story of Isaac.
    Isaac’s life was—superficially
    speaking—not as colorful as his father’s
    or son’s life. Unlike his father Abraham
    he did not wage and win wars, nor
    did he did not travel extensively and
    change the vocabulary of humanity.
    He was never a world celebrity, titled
    by the Hittites as “a prince of G-d.” He
    was not a founder of a new religion, or
    the progenitor of a new nation. He was
    not the “revolutionary” that his father 

    Nor did his life contain the drama of
    his son Jacob. Isaac did not flee his
    brother’s wrath; he did not fight in
    middle of the night; he did not fall in
    love with Rachel, and then experience
    deceit; he did not lose his son to a
    wild animal only to discover 22 years
    later that his beloved child became the
    Prime Minister of the superpower of
    the time. He did not relocate his entire
    family to a new country at an old ripe
    Isaac lived in one location, and he
    never left it. His was more of a simple
    life. The only thing the Torah really
    tells us about his vocation is that he
    grew grain and dug many a well. Isaac
    represents the long and seemingly
    tedious “afternoon” of Jewish history.
    Therein lies his singular uniqueness.
    Isaac’s life might lack the grandeur,
    excitement, challenge and mystique of
    Abraham and Jacob, yet he embodies
    the essence and foundation of Judaism:
    The daily consistent and unwavering
    commitment to G-d and His work.
    Abraham was a revolutionary; he cast
    a new light on the world, but it was
    Isaac who created the vessels to contain
    and internalize the light. Isaac dug the
    wells of Judaism: he went deeply into
    himself and the world around him
    and revealed the subterranean living
    wellsprings of faith and commitment,
    ensuring that the flow never ceases.
    Isaac’s relative silence in the boog
    of Genesis ought not to be confused
    with passivity; it was rather a silence
    that comes with internalization. Isaac
    knew that revolutions can last for a few
    decades, but if you do not create solid
    containers for the energy (represented
    by the wells in the ground) the energy
    will fade away.
    Isaac at one point of his life lay on an
    altar, ready to become an offering for
    G-d. This became the hall mark of his
    life: He embodied absolute dedication
    and resilience, consistent, unwavering,
    and unbending.
    Isaac is the founder of the afternoon
    prayer, the “mincha” of Judaism. “And
    Isaac went out to meditate in the field
    at dusk,” the Torah states in this week’s
    portion. Isaac tapped into the spiritual
    energy of the “boring afternoons”,
    showing us that a relationship with
    G-d does not consist only of the
    spontaneous exuberant morning
    inspiration, or of the drama and
    romance of night. A relationship with
    G-d is expressed even more profoundly
    in the daily commitment and sacrifices
    we make for truth, love, goodness, and
    holiness. He bequeathed us with the
    internal resilience and strength to bring
    G-d into the dull and tedious journeys
    of life.
    It is afternoon in your office. You need
    to respond to dozens of emails, catch
    the bank, return many a call, and still
    field a few annoying appointments.
    But you stand up to daven “mincha,”
    to connect with G-d. You are busy,
    stressed, and tired; yet you leave
    everything behind, and you take time
    out and try to break out of the routine
    to focus on truth, on G-d, on eternity.
    Here is where the power of Isaac lay,
    the still voice of dedication that never
    Marriage, too, has three components:
    the morning, the night—and the period
    of afternoon and dusk.
    When we meet our soulmate, a new
    dawn overwhelms our heart’s horizon.
    We are overtaken by the newness and
    freshness of the experience. We are
    excited, inspired, full of hope of what
    our joined future might look like.
    This is the “Abraham” of marriage,
    the morning—shacharis— of a
    Marriage also has those special
    moments of moonlight mystery and
    drama. The passion and electricity
    that comes from the unknown, from
    discovering the untold layers of
    depth in our spouse’s soul; the special
    awareness that is born from dealing
    with darkness and uncertainty. This is
    the “Jacob” element of marriage, the
    evening—”maariv”—of a relationship.
    But then there is the “mincha” of
    marriage—the simple, unromantic,
    non-dramatic, commitment of two
    people to each other, during the boring
    and flat days of life. Two souls holding
    hands together through the vicissitudes
    of life, in difficult times, in serene
    times, in monotonous moments and
    in thrilling moments. It is the loyalty
    and trust built over years of supporting
    each other.
    This creates a unique type of love.
    There is the love born out of thrill,
    drama, and exhilaration. This is the love
    that precedes marriage. You fall in love
    with your new partner, you are swept
    off your feet by the sunrise in your life.
    But there is another type of love that is
    born out of the daily commitment and
    dedication to each other. This love can
    never be experienced before marriage,
    only afterward.
    This was Isaac’s love. It’s the “mincha”
    love, the one that comes from an
    ongoing, consistent bond in the daily
    grind of life. It is why the Torah states:
    “And Isaac took Rebecca, she became
    his wife, and he loved her.” First Isaac
    marries her, and only then does he
    come to love her.
    What is the difference between the two
    In the first love, born out of the ecstasy
    of a new passionate relationship, the
    shorter we are married, the more the
    love; the longer we are married, the
    more difficult to love. As the thrill
    wanes, boredom sets in, and we
    sometimes grow disinterested. In the
    latter Isaac-type love, it is the reverse:
    the longer we are married, the deeper
    we grow in love. We don’t fall in love;
    we climb in love. The love becomes like
    a deep well, discovered in the depths of
    the earth, and its life sustaining waters
    never cease to flow.
    The first marriage described in Torah
    is the one of Isaac and Rebecca, in
    order to teach us one of the most
    important principles in marriage:
    Passion and romance are awesome,
    but as our circumstances change, they
    can fade away. A marriage must be
    built on good judgment, sound reason,
    an appreciation of the inner, enduring
    qualities and values of the other person,
    and it must possess the enduring
    commitment of a couple to each other,
    day-in day-out, in a bond of steadfast
    and simple faithfulness and trust.
    Parenthetically, this is the reason
    Jewish law insists on no physical
    relations before marriage. This ensures
    that the couple decides to get married
    not based on physical attraction alone,
    because this may change with time, but
    with an appreciation of the character
    traits, inner personality and values
    of the other person, for these will not
    change. Often, when men or women
    get physically involved, they become
    intoxicated by the pleasure and their
    blind spots cause them to overlook
    crucial information which might come
    to the surface a few years down the line
    and sadly sever the connection.
    Our culture knows, perhaps, how to
    pray “shacharis” and “maariv.” We
    desperately need the discover the
    enduring secret of “mincha.”