Arranged Marriages Versus Love

        This week we read about the first arranged marriage in Judaism. Abraham makes his servant swear to find a wife for Isaac, and we find out that Rebecca is the ideal candidate. Not only does she give the servant water but also gives to his camels.[1]

          In contrast, next week Jacob chooses his own wife: Rachel. He did obey his parents’ wishes by going to the land of Haran rather than marrying a Hittite, yet he chose the woman he wanted to marry, even kissing her.[2]

          Which is better: arranged marriages or marriages based on love? I suppose it depends what one’s cultural background is. Interestingly, Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l cites Rabbi Joseph Kolon the Maharik, who comments “The command to love your neighbor overrides the command to obey your parents. Since the love of husband and wife3030 is a supreme example of love of neighbor, it too takes priority over a parents’ wishes.”[3] The word for neighbor, רע, is the same word used in the שבע ברכות, the seven marital blessings, where spouses are referred to as רעים האהובים.

          The lesson for us today is sometimes we as parents want things for our children that they do not want for themselves. We might have increased vision as a result of our experiences. Yet, as Rabbi Sacks writes, “to be a Jewish parent is to make space for your child, as God makes space for us, His children.”[4] May we work on making space for our children, especially when they make choices we’d rather they not make. Let us have the confidence in how we raised them that they will do fine and if they make a mistake, they will learn and grow from it.


[1] Genesis 23:19

[2] Genesis 26:11

[3] Rabbi Joseph Kolon, Responsa 164:3. In Jonathan Sacks Covenant & Conversation Genesis: The Book of Beginnings (New Milford, CT: Maggid Books, 2009), pg. 137.

[4] Sacks, pg. 140.

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