Rebecca giving water to camels
Rebecca giving water to camelsRebecca Kowalsky

In our Parasha, we read how Eliezer, the faithful servant of Avraham, guided by Divine Providence, successfully performed his master’s charge, to (24:4) ‘Take a wife for my son, for Yitzchak’.

We read (24:10-20): ‘the servant took ten’ of his master’s ‘camels..and he went to Aram; and he made the camels kneel..besides the well of water..; And he said:’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 you you have designated for Your servant, for Yitzchak..; Now he had not yet finished speaking, and behold Rivkah came out.. and she went down to the fountain, and she filled her pitcher and went up; And the servant ran towards her, and he said: Please let me sip a little water from your pitcher; And she said: Drink, my lord, and she hastened and lowered her pitcher to her hand, and she gave him to drink; And she finished giving him to drink, and she said, ‘I will also draw for your camels, until they have finished drinking.’

Comments Rashi, as to the test that Elazar set:’’Her you have designated’: She is worthy of him, for she will perform acts of חסד: of loving kindness, and she is fit to enter the house of Avraham’.

Whereupon, as we read, the faithfull servant, thanked Hashem, (24:27):’the G-d of my master, Avraham’ for having given him the zechut, to successfully complete the lofty mission, entrusted to him by his master, Avraham.

Why did Eliezer, who is praised as ‘the one who drew from the well of Avraham’, from his ways and attributes, and ‘watered this water, over the whole world’, choose this test as THE entrance test, of worthiness to enter the house of Avraham?

The Ran - Rabbeinu Nissim - deals with the criticism, that is raised by some of our Sages, that Eliezer acted improperly, in relying on a sign, and rebuts:’That which Eliezer did was dictated by his intellect, as he knew that all that concerned his master’s affairs was guided by Divine Providence, and this was especially so in respect of the wife that befitted his son, Yitzchak.

‘He therefore concluded that the woman who was most compete in her midot, she was the one worthy of Yitzchak. But how could he determine who the right woman was? only by her being a young maiden, who would go out to draw water, not sitting idly at home, but engaged in toil, and, with this, so complete would she be in her midot, that, despite being engaged in toil, she would not spare herself, to assist even one whom she did not know.

‘This would truly attest to her perfection in midot, and she would be the one worthy to be the life-mate of the righteous Yitzchak.

‘This, therefore was not a case of divination, but a deep considered conclusion.’

Rav Elya Lopian adds:’Avraham’s insistence, in his instructions to Eliezer, that he not take a bride for Yitzchak from the daughters of Canaan, was because of their bad midot.

‘This is why the faithful servant, asked for a sign from Above, and decided on the test of the great midah of חסד: of loving kindness, as that would show that, the maiden who had that attribute, ‘the one to whom I say..she You have proven to be’ the right one.

‘This attribute was the special way of Avraham Avinu, as the prophet, Micah, says:’And You shall give חסד to Avraham’.

‘When we carefully study our psukim, we read:’And the servant ran towards her..and she hastened and lowered her pitcher and gave him drink’- comments Rashi:’and she lowered her pitcher from her shoulder’; and again, later:’And she hastened ..and she ran again..’ - we find that the Torah mentioned twice, in describing her actions, that ‘she hastened’ - that she did it all with alacrity.

‘We find here a wondrous thing: how much time would it have taken, for her to have lowered her pitcher without haste? a second or two, and similarly if, without haste, she went to refill her pitcher.. but by hastening even in these actions, she showed her love of doing חסד - this could not be delayed even for a second.

‘The Torah did not leave out this detail, in detailing the actions of Rivkah - as because of this, she merited to be Rivkah Immenu.’

Might we not add, that, in this seemingly minor detail, Rivkah proved that she merited to enter the house of Avraham.

Let us elucidate, when we re-visit last week’s Parasha, we find this characteristic of haste and alacrity in the actions of Avraham Avinu:(Vayera 18:2-7)’..and he ran towards them..;and he hastened to the tent to Sarah, and said: hasten prepare..; and to the cattle he ran..’.

How faithfully did the young maiden, in our Parasha, act in the very same way! Surely she proved, by the manner of her act of חסד, that she was worthy to enter the house of Avraham.

We brought at length, on Parashat Vayera, the definitive expositions of Rav Chaim miChernowitz, as to the meaning of an איש חסד, as distinct from איש רחמים, one who acts out of pity.

In his commentary on our Parasha, the Rav summarizes:’The simple difference is that one who acts out of pity, acts only if he sees someone in distress, as his pity is aroused, and assists only to the extent that his pity is aroused; not so one who acts out of חסד - he gives ‘from himself’, awaking each morning and setting out to find an opportunity to do חסד.

This is the way of the person of חסד, his heart burning within him, and praying that someone for whom he can do חסד should come his way; and this was the way of Avraham Avinu, as the Torah so vividly details, in Parashat Vayera.

‘This, too, was the way of Rivkah, who, like Avraham, ran and hastened when the opportunity to do חסד came her way; and, not surprisingly - as the Torah relates at the end of the episode - we find that she was related to Avraham Avinu.

‘The sage servant reflected:if the maiden only fulfills that which I ask of her, she will have shown that she has the attribute of pity, but not the attribute of חסד. What would the person of חסד do further? He goes beyond that which is asked, to give that which has not been asked, this being the way of the person of חסד, who pursues after the needy with all his heart.

‘Therefore, Eliezer set his test on this: if, when he says: ‘Please let me sip a little of your water’, and she should say of herself:’Drink, and your camels, too, I shall give drink’, this will prove that she has the attribute of חסד, that her will is to דוקא do חסד, from herself, and therefore adds to what was asked of her.

‘This is why, here, Rashi comments:’She is worthy of him, that she will perform חסד’, and is deserving of entering the house of Avraham, the centre and source of חסד, who, all his days, chased after wayfarers, to bring them into his home, to feed and slake their thirst, to increase חסד in the world.

‘The righteous Rivkah went in his ways, and of herself and her own mind, added, and said: ‘and your camels, too, I shall give water’, to do חסד with Eliezer.’

Rav Matityahu Solomon adds:’When you want to test a person, as to whether he is truly a בעל חסד, you don’t simply check if he does good for others, but the test is this: is the good that he does limited, or, does he seek to increase it.

‘This was the prayer of Eliezer, when he said:’and it shall be that the maiden to whom I shall say: let me drink water from your pitcher, and she she shall say: ‘and to your to camels I shall also give water’, she is the one You have proved to be for Yitzchak.

‘When he sought the one who was worthy to enter the house of Avraham - the ‘Rabbi’ of the attribute of a generous eye - Eliezer knew, that it was not enough, to simply find a maiden who did חסד, but he sought one who was ‘good’ - one whose attribute was an unlimited amount of good, who, when asked for something, seeks not merely to do that which was asked, but to do more, like a spring which does not stop giving.

‘Had she answered: You are thirsty? Of course I shall immediately slake your thirst, here, please drink’, she would not thereby have shown that she possessed the attribute of Avraham; only when she added, of herself: ‘and for your camels, too, I shall give to drink’, still in the course of her conversation with Eliezer, this proved that she had a ‘generous eye’, and - like Avraham - possessed of the attribute of ‘good’.’

The Slonimer Rebbe, the Darchei Noam adds a beautiful insight, to Rivkah’s attribute of חסד.

Expounds the Rav:’The test which Eliezer set to test Rivkah, was not only as to her attribute of חסד, but whether she was complete in goodness, but one who sees no bad in others, as one may truly be a person of חסד, who rushes to assist when an opportunity to do חסד comes before him, from someone in need - but all this when there is truly a need to do חסד; but not when confronted with someone who seeks to take advantage of the person’s goodness of heart.

‘Here, Eliezer arrives at the well with a convoy of camels, and with him ten able-bodied attendants, and when he wants to drink, he asks this slip of a girl to pour water into his mouth.

‘This looks like the height of uncouthness, because what need does he have for her assistance, at all; cannot he and his men bend like her, and draw water from the well?

‘Even the most charitable of men, would not see a need to help those who do not really need חסד, who are well able to attend to his own needs.

‘Not so Rivkah: immediately she heard his request, she hastened and ran to provide him, and his camels, with water.

‘This proved that, not only did she have the attribute of חסד, but that bad had no place in her character; and one who has no bad in their character, does not see bad in anyone else, and inevitably judges them favorably, that there must be some good reason for he being unable to help himself.

‘This is why Eliezer now declared that:’You have proved that she is worthy of Yitzchak, because she has the attribute of ‘a good eye’, and is worthy to enter the house of Avraham.’

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.