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    Extra taxes for bachelors – Chayyei Sarah

    Isaac meets Rebekah, by Gustave Dore

    The portion begins with Isaac losing his mother and ends with him finding a wife.

    How old he was during this period is addressed by the rabbis but presuming that he spent several years as an eligible bachelor we can understand his excitement at meeting Rivkah.

    According to the way the text tells the story, “he brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent and she became his wife and he loved her” (Gen. 24:67). The sequence of words is not what we would have expected.

    The generation in which we live would have said, “He loved her, and she became his wife”. The Torah, however, has another point of view – “give the love time to develop… the longer they know each other the more they will find love.”

    Maybe the word “love” needs more precise definition, but it probably goes beyond physical attraction and romantic excitement and conveys a different message – “I can’t live without you”.

    Marriage breakdown is the feeling that whatever the original attraction, the couple have come to the conclusion that they can live without each other. Of course some single people get so used to living without a marriage commitment that they fear an interruption to their life and its presumed pleasures.

    It’s a good job they don’t live in the early days of American history when some New England towns made a bachelor pay extra taxes on the basis that “sin and iniquity ordinarily are the companions and consequences of the solitary life”, and in some towns a bachelor had to obtain official permission to live alone. Unmarried women were also regarded with suspicion; it was no pleasure to be what one of my uncles used to call “an unclaimed treasure”.

    Isaac and Rivkah, of course, had the assistance of a shadchan, Abraham’s servant Eliezer. Maybe we need to make more use of the ancient art of matchmaking.

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