In this week’s Torah portion, we encounter an already elderly Avraham. His wife
has passed away and he is crying for her, mourning her, and he purchases a
gravesite for her. Now Avraham is free to worry about the
Yitzhak, the son who is going to continue the family dynasty, is
still a bachelor so Avraham turns to his household manager – Eliezer – with a
request that he find a partner for Yitzhak.
Eliezer travels to search for
the special woman worthy of being Yitzhak’s wife, and finally finds Rivka, who
agrees to come to Eretz Canaan – where Avraham and Yitzhak reside – and marry
This story is described in the Torah in great detail.
of our sages concluded something interesting from this: Rav Acha said: The
discussion of the servants of the fathers is more beautiful than the Torah of
(Midrash Raba, Genesis Parsha 60) Meaning: Many commandments are
written in the Torah briefly, using few words, but this story, most of which is
comprised of Eliezer’s thoughts and words, is written in great
The number of words used by the Torah for each topic is not
coincidental and acts as an indication of the importance of the issue. From
this, Rav Acha concludes that the importance of this story is greater than the
importance of other commandments written in the Torah.
Why is this story
describing the shidduch of Yitzhak and Rivka so important? Following the way
Eliezer searches for a partner suitable for Yitzhak teaches us a basic and
significant point about relationships, and about the necessary characteristics
in the person who will be privileged to be the one who continues the dynasty of
Avraham Avinu and from whom Am Yisrael will grow.
Eliezer embarks on this
search mission with one only one piece of data: The girl he is looking for has
to be from Avraham Avinu’s family living in his native country, Aram
Being familiar with Avraham’s lifestyle and the values he
wanted to bequeath to following generations, Eliezer decides, on his own, to run
a “test” of the girls in the place he reaches. And he says it like this: Behold,
I am standing by the water fountain, and the daughters of the people of the city
are coming out to draw water.
And it will be, [that] the maiden to whom I
will say, ‘Lower your pitcher and I will drink,’ and she will say, ‘Drink, and I
will also water your camels,’ her have You designated for Your servant, for
Yitzhak...” (Genesis 24, 13-14) And indeed, the girl to whom Eliezer turned with
this request was Rivka, and she agreed to his request and even added her own
suggestion to help him give water also to the herd of camels that accompanied
him on his journey.
Eliezer is excited about his success and immediately
offers her jewelry and turns to speak with her parents about the match which
will eventually take place, but not before Rivka expresses her consent to going
with Eliezer with the purpose of marrying Yitzhak.
We read this
incredible story and wonder: Is this the only criterion necessary for Yitzhak’s
partner? Aren’t there other details that Eliezer should verify before he decides
that this is the woman worthy of continuing Avraham’s dynasty? Aren’t there
additional important qualities other than giving and helping others? Here we
discover Avraham’s great spirit which was the basis for Eliezer’s actions, and
which acts as the basic value upon which all of Judaism rests: Giving is the
foundation of everything.
Avraham Avinu, who opened his home to any
passing guest, bequeathed this message to us deeply and thoroughly. Nothing
teaches us about a man’s character like the trait of giving. When a person gives
of himself to others, it proves that he is not insular but is capable of seeing
the needs of the other, and even the needs of animals living around him. This
kind of person is one who is worthy of continuing the dynasty of Avraham since
he internalized the most important value of all, the principle that guides
success: Seeing the other.
When we talk about “seeing the other,” we do
not mean only recognizing his existence but recognizing his needs and making
real room for him in our hearts.
This is the trait that teaches us about
a man’s character more than any other.
Rivka proved she had this trait
because she not only agreed to the request of the stranger standing before her,
but recognized his hidden needs, thinking of him and of his camels. She,
therefore, was the woman worthy of being Yitzhak’s partner.
learn this important message, it is clear to us why this story is more important
than other commandments written in the Torah. For it teaches us about the
highest principle, the basis upon which all of Judaism rests, and the correct
way in which we should lead our lives – recognizing the other and both his
obvious and hidden needs.The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and
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