"Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebecca the daughter of Bethuel" (Genesis 25:20).

At the age of ninety, after many decades of childlessness, Sarah gave birth to her only child, Isaac. We can only imagine how happy she would have been had she been given the opportunity to rock one of Isaac's children, her very own ainikel, on her knee. Sarah, the very first yiddishe mama, would certainly have taken great pleasure in showing all her friends the baby pictures and videos of her grandchildren... And besides the nachas which every grandparent has from a grandchild, Sarah would also have had great spiritual satisfaction from watching her grandchildren as they grew up, as Isaac's progeny represented the future of the Jewish nation. Sarah and Abraham toiled their entire lives to proclaim the importance of the belief in One G‑d. Isaac's child would be the one to ensure that this legacy would continue and flourish.

But Sarah never lived to see any grandchildren. She passed away when Isaac was 37 years old — three years before he married Rebecca. Why did Isaac wait so long to marry? Why didn't Abraham, years earlier, consider sending his servant to fetch a wife for him from his hometown in Mesopotamia?

Why did Isaac wait so long to marry?The major event which occurred shortly before Isaac and Rebecca's wedding was the binding of Isaac on Mount Moriah. Credit for passing this test is usually attributed to Abraham. But Isaac was 37 at the time,1 was certainly aware of his father's intentions, and willingly submitted himself to be sacrificed as per G‑d's command. Since Isaac's wedding plans commenced immediately upon returning from this "traumatic" event, there certainly is a correlation between the two. The fact that the first wedding in the Torah is preceded by a tremendous sacrifice is a message for every Jewish bride and groom for all time.

People are naturally self-centered. Our own physical and spiritual development and growth are foremost on our minds. This is not necessarily evil; in fact, Jewish law recognizes the primacy of a person's own welfare over all other concerns — including the interests of others. This preoccupation with self, however, comes to a crashing halt when a person walks down the wedding aisle. At that point, bride and groom wholly commit themselves to each other. When a single person is on a sinking boat, no one will blame him for running for the life boats to save his own life, even if his friend might be asleep in their cabin. But such a move is unthinkable for the married person whose spouse is in need of assistance. Aside for their commitment to each other, husband and wife are also committed to an ideal which they both share and wish to perpetuate — the establishment of a Jewish home, a home suffused with holiness, a home where the Divine Presence is always welcome. At this point, even the personal spiritual development of the bride and groom becomes secondary to the goal for which they are "sacrificing" themselves. The mundane task of changing a diaper suddenly takes priority over the mother's prayers or the father's study!

Isaac was not ready for marriage until he experienced firsthand the concept of total self-sacrifice. Only then was he able to appreciate marriage for what it really is, and create a marriage which was the paradigm which all his descendents attempt to emulate.