Seeing Through the Cover
By Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig
Eliezer, our forefather Avraham's faithful servant, was dispatched to find a
wife for his master's son, Yitzchak (Isaac). He decided to test the
candidate to determine if she possessed the character needed by the one who
would marry Yitzchak. "And he said, 'Hashem, G-d of my master Avraham...Let
it be that the maiden to whom I shall say, "Please tip over your jug so I
may drink," and who replies, "Drink, and I will even water your camels," her
will you have designated for Your servant, for Yitzchak.'"
Bais HaLevi (biblical commentary of Rabbi Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik
(1820-1892), Rosh HaYeshiva/Dean in Volozhin and later Rabbi of Slutzk and
Brisk; considered one of the most brilliant Talmudists of the 19th century)
explains that Eliezer's asking Rivka (Rebecca) for water not only tested her
kindness to strangers, but also demonstrated her intelligence and
sensitivity to the feelings of others. Not knowing Eliezer's hygiene or
state of health, what would she do with the leftover water? If she took it
home, that would indicate a lack of aptitude. If she would pour the water
out onto the ground, surely the stranger would understand and be
embarrassed. A sensitive, intelligent person would offer the remaining water
to the animals. Rivka demonstrated an even grater level of kindness than
expected by giving all of the animals drink until they were satiated.
When Eliezer determined that she was the desired candidate and offered a
proposal of marriage, her family protested her imminent departure, seeking a
delay. Asked what she desired, Rivka responded, "I will go" (24:58), upon
which Rashi comments, "Of my own will, even if you do not agree." How could
Rivka, who had just demonstrated her intelligence and sensitivity, so
swiftly reject the security of family and home to marry Yitzchak, whom she
had never met before? How was she so certain that he was the person with
whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life, that he was of appropriate
character to be her life's partner and to share in raising their children?
Rabbi Shlomo Morgenstern (Rosh HaYeshiva, Bais Medrash L'Torah of Skokie,
Illinois) clarifies that much can be learned about a person from by how they
view others. As Avraham's niece, Rivka knew that his family was wealthy and
prestigious. The influence and impact of this family on world events was
renowned. Ostensibly, Yitzchak could have married whom ever he wanted, but
he did not pursue wealth or physical beauty, as many others in his situation
would have done. Rather, he sought someone with kindness and sensitivity. If
these were the traits Yitzchak valued, then she had no question that he was
ideal for her.
It has been said that money can't buy happiness. G-d gives us the gifts of
all things physical - money, food, shelter, a body - as facilitators for our
spiritual growth, as vehicles and utensils with which we foster our G-d
consciousness. We use them for tzedaka (charity), for chesed (acts of
kindness), for our own sustenance so we can perform other mitzvos (Divine
commandments). Viewing the world through this prism, we strive to emulate
our forbearers, who saw and valued others not for what they owned or how
they looked, but for whom they truly were.
Have a Good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
Studies 5007 West Keefe Avenue; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 414-447-7999