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Parshas Chayei Sarah

The Gift That Keeps on Hinting1

The man took a golden nose ring weighing a beka, and two gold bracelets on her arms, ten gold shekels was their weight.

Rashi: Beka, because it alluded to the mitzvah of machtzis ha-shekel, which is described by the Torah as “beka lagulgoless{2}.”

Rashi finds it necessary to explain away the beka as a symbol, rather than something significant in its own right, because it grates on what seems to be the plain intent of the verse. The Torah appears to depict Eliezer’s gift as a large one. The bracelets, indeed, were formidable at ten shekels. A beka, however, is literally a small fraction of that, since it is identical to a half a shekel. Its value must have been in its symbolic representation.

Eliezer made his point subliminally. He wished to say something about the people that would ensue from the union he planned to bring about between Rivka and Yitzchok. Their progeny would merit involvement with true avodah. (The machtzis ha-shekel will appear later in two forms that are connected to avodah: as the adanim, the support bases for the kerashim, and as the annual contribution of every Jew to finance the offerings in the mikdosh throughout the year.)

We need not assume that Rivka understood the meaning of the allusion. Paraphrasing the gemara{3} in a different context, “even though she did not understand, her representative angel understood. Thus, Eliezer’s message impacted her on some unconscious level.

Just what was the message? Chazal tell us{4} that the world stands on three things: Torah, avodah, and chesed. Eliezer was witness to her outstanding accomplishment in chesed. He meant to inform her that her chesed made it appropriate for her to achieve the other two pillars, which are related to chesed and flow from it. Because of her chesed, she would be a suitable match for Yitzchok and his superlative avodah. Between the two of them, they could produce a Yaakov, the one who would “dwell in tents” {5} and study Torah. (The beka symbolized avodah, as we said before; the two bracelets represented the two tablets of the Aseres Hadibros.)

Moreover, avodah and Torah would follow along from chesed not only because of their organic connection. Klal Yisrael would, of necessity, need to possess all three. The avos serve as a foundation for all of the world. If the world rests on three pillars, then those pillars needed to have been in the firm possession of the avos. In the course of time, the children would carry on the work of the avos; they too, would need to possess all three. Eliezer hinted to Rivka that by becoming one of the matriarchs, she would play a role in creating a people that would, of necessity, lay claim to Torah, avodah, and chesed.

The allusion to the half-shekel of the yearly korbanos conveys an additional message. Hashem authored a complex system of offerings to cover a gamut of Jewish misdeeds. Why? The apparent explanation is that He values the purity and elevation of each Jewish soul, and created an elaborate system of offerings to safeguard and preserve the integrity of each soul by providing ample opportunities for atonement. The beka, therefore, alludes to the perfection of the soul – just as the reference to Torah (by way of the two bracelets) alludes to the perfection of the intellect.


1. Based on Gur Aryeh, Bereishis 24:22

2. Shemos 38:26

3. Megilah 3A

4. Avos 1:2

5. Bereishis 25:27



 

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