Rabbi Avi Billet penned an article for the Jewish Star on this topic, basically talking about plausibility and how he would not accept Rashi as peshat here, but would follow other positions. And the idea behind this, I would assume, was to get people to think in general about the Biblical text, and not just stick with Rashi's peshat every time, and not grapple with it and think about it. The result is a more optimal type of learning Chumash. We learn Chumash as kids in yeshiva, but we don't approach the text as Rashi would, as Ibn Ezra would, as Abarbanel would, thinking about the text ourselves, the intertexuality, the grammar, etc. But we could, if we adopt a more sophisticated approach to the text and to the mefarshim.
There is a principle of Da Lifnei Mi Ata Omed. As used by Chazal, this means realize before Whom you are standing, which is Lifnei Melech Malchei HaMelachim, HaKadosh Baruch Hu. But we might reuse that phase to mean know your audience, and present it in a way they can accept.
And this is just what Rabbi Billet did when writing for the Jewish Star. But then it was carried over to Vos Iz Neias, which has a more chareidi audience. And this audience was perhaps not ready for this message, at least in the style it was presented. And so the comments stand right now at 168, many of them calling the author of the article an apikores for thinking he can argue with Rashi on the basis of plausibility. And a commenter, zb, left a lengthy comment addressing their points in a recent parshablog post. This also drew the attention of Streimel and of WolfishMusings.
Personally, I think that certain aspects of the story make more sense with an older Rivkah. But even so, I have written posts about the plausibility or lack thereof of Rashi's position.
For example, the Torah calls Rivkah a naarah, which in Rabbinic thought refers specifically to people of a specific age, an age much larger than 3. Here is a post demonstrating that while thus is true on the level of derash and even midrash halacha, on the level of peshat, this need not be so, as we see from the Naarah Ketana serving Naaman.
Second, Rabbenu Bachya notes the implausibility of Rivkah doing all that she did -- for she needs miraculous strength, and concludes it must have been with Divine assistance, and then notes that this is all the more so according to the position of the midrash that she was three. The implication is that one might say not like the midrash. But it is also that even as a three year old, we are already assuming miraculous Divine assistance.
In this post, I address whether Rashi's explanation is plausible, and whether it is obscene. I note that what is described is taking Rachel back for eventual nisuin, but that according to Rashi, that nisuin does not occur until 10 years later. And marrying at 13 is not unknown in ancient cultures, and was culturally acceptable. Indeed, as the author of the KallahMagazine blog pointed out, we see that Juliet was that age, and her mother says that she is an old maid -- at that age, Juliet's mother was already pregnant. And as the author of the Divrei Chaim blog points out, Tosafot writes how kiddushei katana was common in the middle ages. So it is not such a farfetched peshat as it might appear to us, living in the 21st century CE. When learning Biblical text, or when learning commentaries on the Biblical text, sometimes it pays to get past our own preconceptions, especially before judging various mefarshim's comments as ridiculous.
In that same post I also include a bunch of photos are really young children, about the age of three, getting water in buckets from water sources such as wells. And I know from my own son that he was capable of carrying gallon-sized Poland Spring waters (and large and heavy Shulchan Aruchs) across the room -- he did so on much more than one occassion.
In this post, I address what I would consider a more important issue. As I write there,
Those who take every midrash absolutely literally are missing the point. Those who try to harmonize competing midrashim are missing the point. Those who are upset at the midrash and rail against it because they think it improbable or against a literal reading are also missing the point.If it is a midrash, what exactly is the point of the midrash? And based on the mechanism of deriving it, I suggest that an important message of the midrash is that this is a predestined marriage. Because making her three comes from the apparent fact (apparent because there are other ways of reading it, on a peshat level) that Avraham is informed of her birth right after Akeidat Yitzchak, now that Yitzchak has survived the ordeal. And then the betrothal occurs at the first available point, when betrothal could effectively work. And this bolsters the theme in the Biblical text of the Divine hand guiding Eliezer towards finding Yitzchak's soul-mate.
Finally, in this post, I continue analyzing the theme in terms of another midrash, about Rachel's age at the time of marriage.
Again, this is not to say that she was three. But one could argue that position while remaining a pashtan and plausible, or else one can dismiss it on the level of peshat while still appreciating the deeper thematic message the midrash is seeing and teaching in the Biblical text.