Many Women Keep Their Age a Secret


Parsha Points- Chayei Sarah 5774


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Many Women Keep Their Age a Secret


Parshat Chayei Sarah begins by telling us how old Sarah was when she passed away and continues with the story of Rivka’s marriage to Yitzchak. Although we hear how old Sarah was when she passed away (127) as well as how old she was when she gave birth to Yitzchak (90), the Torah only records Rivka’s birth and after that doesn’t mention her age at all despite the fact that it mentions that Yitzchak got married at 40 and became a father at 60.


Since Rivka was married young as was the custom, there was no specific reason to record her exact age. In Avraham’s, Sarah’s and even Yitzchak’s cases they were much older when the got married and had children so the Torah made a point of mentioning their ages.


How young was Rivka when she met Avraham’s servant who brought her back to marry Yitzchak?


Different commentaries have different opinions, but the only actual hint that we have from the text is in Breisheet 24:16: “Vihanaara tovat mareh meod, bitulah v’ish lo yidaa…”, “The maiden was very good looking, a virgin, no man had known her”.


From this sentence we can deduce that she was a young woman, but we still don’t know her age.


The Gemara in Yevamot 61b states that a Kohen Gadol (High Priest) must marry a “betula”, “virgin” as it says in Vayikra 21:14: “Only a “betula” of his people may he take as his wife.”


How old is a “betula”? She is a girl who left the category of minor, but has not reached the category of “bogeret” (more mature girl). When she is twelve years old and hits puberty she becomes a “nearah”, a maiden.


Since Rivka was called a “nearah” and “betula” she is thought to be older than twelve years old.


Tosafot in Yevamot 61b bring up the opinion that if you do the mathematical calculations based on everyone else’s ages then Rivka would have been 14 years old when she married Yitzchak. The Vilna Gaon follows the opinion that Rivka was 14 as well.


Rivka’s death is also not recorded in the Torah.


In Breisheet 35:8 it says: “Devorah, Rivka’s nurse died and she was buried in Beit El under the oak tree. He named it Alon Bachut (Weeping Oak).”


Why is such a big deal made over the death of Rivka’s nurse?


Rashi brings the aggada which states that at the time of Devora’s death, Yaakov was informed of Rivka’s death. Rivka’s death was kept a secret since she was also the mother of Esav and God didn’t want people to curse Rivka for giving birth to Esav.


It says in the Midrash Sifri, Devarim 34:36 that Rivka and Kehat (the son of Levi) both died at the same age. The age listed in Shmot 6:18 for Kehat’s death was 133 years old.


We see that although Rivka’s age was not listed in the text, the Rabbis still tried to figure out how old she was.


My grandmother, Reva (Rivka) Margolin never told us her exact age. She looked and felt young even when she was in her early 80’s. After she became a senior citizen, she did not want the bus driver to know her age so she continued to pay full price. When she passed away, we found out that she was really a few years older than we thought.


We learn from here that not all women like to reveal their age!


Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim!

Sharona Margolin Halickman