Water from the well: The seduction of beauty

This week’s Torah portion, Toldot, presents one of the many stories in Genesis dealing with the beauty of a woman and the resulting danger.

By NECHAMA GOLDMAN BARASH
November 15, 2017 19:55
4 minute read.
ISAAC’S SERVANT tying a bracelet on Rebekah’s arm in this 1775 work by Anglo-American history painte

ISAAC’S SERVANT tying a bracelet on Rebekah’s arm in this 1775 work by Anglo-American history painter Benjamin West. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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Part of the traditional Friday night service is to sing the verses of Eshet Hayil (A Woman of Valor) from the book of Proverbs. Toward the end, we sing the line “Grace is deceptive and beauty is illusory; it is for her fear of the Lord that a woman is to be praised.”

Although it is inherently true – beauty is indeed illusory and temporary – we still put a tremendous premium on beauty and beautiful people. Yet, as we will see, the Torah understands the seduction of beauty but also the danger that lies within both for the beautiful person and for those around him or her. There are not many people described as beautiful in the Tanach. A cursory summary reveals that in each story where someone is described as beautiful, it is an element that plays a central role in the plot line.

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