EXTREMELY YOUNG GIRLS
[see comments appended to this post: http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2006/07/holy-hypocrisy-batman.html]
To which the proper response is 'oh cheeses THAT again!'
In a large part the idea that the extremely young got married is the contra-face of the exaggeration of the ages of sages that also spills out of the Torah.
Most of us know that this is metaphor meant to impress a point upon the reader.
But rashi doesn't know this.
Rashi tells us with a straight face that Rivkah was three years old when she married Yitzhak.
Rashi establishes by Biblical math that Rebecca was an infant, azoi: Sarah Imeinu was 90 when Yitzhak was born, 127 years old when Avrohom and Yitzhak go up the mountain. After the Akeida, Avrohom et famiglia (Avraham ve mishpacha) return to Be’er Sheva, then Sarah dies in Chevron (shock at what her son told her that her putz of a husband had been up to up on the mountain?), at which time Yitzhak was 37. Then Avrohom hears of the birth of Rivka, who his son Yitzhak will marry in three years.
From this Rashi shpers that Rivka was three years old.
Ibn Ezra, ma she’ein kein, takes a far less meshune tack on this, pointing out (Seder Olam Rabba) that Rivka’s birth is mentioned before Sarah’s death, even though Avrumel only hears about it afterwards. Ibn Ezra further postulates that at least a dozen years passed between the Akeidah and the death of Sarah Imaeinu, and if Rivka was born in the same year as the binding, then she was only thirteen years younger than Yitzhak – not so much a chidush as a much more reasonable assumption.
After all, a three year old is hardly likely to be at the village well drawing buckets of water for the household, giving an elderly git (Eliezer) a tip of a jug for a drink of water, AND watering his camels.
Supporting the mishegoss that Rivka was three years old at the time of her shidduch, Beraishis Rabba 58:2 says ‘Ere Hashem allows the sun of one righteous person to set, He causes the sun of the next righteous person to rise’, which is taken to mean that G-d balanced out the death of Sarah with the birth of Rivka.
But should we really assume so close a match in time?
Probably not. In Bereishis 24:16, Rivka is referred to as a na’arah, which means a girl who has reached the age of sexuality – at least bat mitzvah age, or even older. A girl who would’ve been much more likely to slide down from the camel she was riding when first seeing her future husband, whereas a three year old would’ve probably fallen off and hurt herself (which is not how it is described in this parsha).
A spunky teenager, in other words. Quite possibly a perky brunette.
The Vilna Gaon cites Beraishis Rabba 56:11 which says that Yitzhak was 26 years old at the time of the Akeidah, and that Sarah Imaeinu did not die at that time, as it was at the end of the time when Avrohom and his family lived in the land of the Pelishtim, and after that they lived in Chevron for another twelve years. So, if Avrohom heard of Rivka’s birth after the death of our mother Sarah, then Rivka would have indeed been a na’arah.
Nothing like a young, fresh Naharaimian na'arah to spice up the old ohel.
So why do we still give credence to Rashi’s interpretation, instead of Ibn Ezra’s?
Rashi was a ba’al gaiva.