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The Beautiful Bride

The Beautiful Bride

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In the Torah’s first description of an arranged marriage, we read how Abraham dispatches his servant Eliezer to Padan Aram in search of a fitting bride for his beloved son Isaac. There, Eliezer meets Rebecca and her family.

Impressed by the young woman, Eliezer suggests that she come to Canaan with him to meet his young master. Rebecca’s family, however, is not so keen on letting her go. They say, "Let the maiden stay with us days or ten; afterwards, she will go.”1

Rebecca's family is not keen on letting her go

Rashi tells us that the term “days” actually refers to a full year, and “ten” means ten months. He continues to explain that the purpose of this delay was so that Rivka be able to “outfit herself with ornaments.”2

Now, if the family wanted to say “a year or ten months,” surely they could have just said so outright. Why the cryptic “days or ten”?

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the Rebbe’s father, explains the significance of these words: The marriage of Isaac and Rebecca symbolizes the marriage between G‑d and the Jewish people, a marriage which is renewed every year during the High Holidays. Sukkot, “the time of our rejoicing,” is the climax of the High Holidays, the wedding itself. Indeed, like a bride, the Jewish nation appears with adornments: the lulavandetrog. In fact, the word the Torah uses to describe the etrog is “hadar,” which means “beautiful.”

But before the bride can get married, she needs time to fix her appearances, to make sure she is ready for this special day. When do we prepare for Sukkot? “Days or ten.”

“Days”—which is a minimum of two days—is a reference to Rosh Hashanah, the only holiday that is universally celebrated over two days.

“Ten” is Yom Kippur, which the Torah tells us is celebrated on the “tenth day of the seventh month.”3

Sandwiched between the “days” and the “ten” is the word “or,” או (“oh”) in Hebrew. The numerical value of או is 7 (1+6=7). And indeed, there are seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Note that the seven is made up of six and one. Similarly, the seven days have one that stands out from all the rest: the day immediately after Rosh Hashanah is Tzom Gedaliah, when we fast and add special prayers to the daily service.

It is not coincidental that the word “days,” which alludes to the two days of Rosh Hashanah, refers to a full year. After all, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak points out, Rosh Hashanah is the “head” of the entire year. Just as the brain controls the functions of the entire body, so do the days of Rosh Hashanah contain the vitality for the entire year.

The days of Rosh Hashanah contain the vitality for the entire year

After the preparation period, the bride is properly adorned and is beautiful. This is why the next words in the verse, אחר תלך (“and then she shall go”) have the same numerical value as the words in which the Torah describes the etrog, פרי עץ הדר (“the fruit of a tree that is beautiful”): 659.4

Likewise, when we prepare ourselves on Rosh Hashanah, during the Ten Days of Repentance, and on Yom Kippur, we can enter the holiday of Sukkot with rejoicing.

Footnotes
2.
Ad loc.
3.
Leviticus 23:27. Note that the word used in both instances is the rare construct of עשור.
4.
Based on this mystical understanding, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak addresses the obvious question: Why was Eliezer opposed to Rebecca staying? Was there not deep significance to her staying for “days or ten”? He explains that the same goals could be achieved with Isaac, so there was no reason for her to remain in idolatrous surroundings.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson (1878–1944) was a mystic and scholar who wrote commentaries on the most esoteric texts. As rabbi of a major Ukrainian city, he struggled valiantly to strengthen Judaism, in spite of Soviet persecution.
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