Abraham specifically sent his servant to find a suitable wife for Isaac. The servant found a kind and hospitable woman (who turned out to be Rebecca) whose character matched that of Abraham and his family.
Rebecca was a matriarch in the same mold as her mother-in-law, Sara. She, too, was kind, generous and a partner in spreading the faith. The Torah tells us that when Rebecca married Isaac, he was “comforted after the death of his mother”.
Rashi quotes a midrash that says that there were three miracles that occurred while Sara was alive. These three miracles ceased when Sara died and resumed once Rebecca joined the family. In Rashi’s words, these were “a light burning from one Shabbat to the next, a blessing in the dough, and a cloud hanging over the tent.”
These three things represent the foundations of a Jewish home.
The light that burned from one Shabbat to the next was the Shabbat candles. The sacred, spiritual atmosphere that they symbolize should be present the entire week. The “blessing in the dough” stands for a recognition that our livelihood comes from Hashem. Of course, we must work but also acknowledge that our success comes about because of
G-d’s blessings. Finally, the “cloud hanging over the tent” means that the family was always aware of G-d’s presence and nearness.
These are the elements that are essential for Jewish continuity. If we want our children and our grandchildren to internalize our heritage, we must give them the same elements that Sara and Rebecca had: a constant relationship with Hashem, kindness to all people and the blessings that come from His Torah and Mitzvot.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)