Parshat Chayei Sara
Sarah, Mother of the Jewish People, passes on at age 127. After mourning and eulogizing her, Avraham seeks to bury her in the Cave of Machpela. As this is the burial place of Adam and Chava, Avraham pays its owner, Ephron the Hittite, an exorbitant sum. Avraham sends his faithful servant Eliezer to find a suitable wife for his son, Yitzchak, making him swear to choose a wife only from among Avrahams family. Eliezer travels to Aram Naharaim and prays for a sign. Providentially, Rivka appears. Eliezer asks for water. Not only does she give him water, but she draws water for all 10 of his thirsty camels. (Some 140 gallons!) This extreme kindness marks her as the right wife for Yitzchak and a suitable Mother of the Jewish People. Negotiations with Rivka's father and her brother Lavan result in her leaving with Eliezer. Yitzchak brings Rivka into his mother Sarahs tent, marries her and loves her. He is then consoled for the loss of his mother. Avraham remarries Hagar who is renamed Ketura to indicate her improved ways. Six children are born to them. After giving them gifts, Avraham sends them to the East. Avraham passes away at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpela.
Faith And Kindness
“When she finished giving him (Eliezer) to drink, she said, ‘I will draw water even for your camels until they have finished drinking’.” (24:19)
If Orthodox Judaism required you to travel the world eating in all the best treif restaurants, a lot more people would be religious.
The ultimate barrier to faith in G-d is not logical but psychological.
Subconsciously, a person knows that if he accepts that the order in Creation logically implies an ‘Orderer’, this may eventually mean that he is going to have to stop driving to the golf club on Saturday morning. More than that, he’s going to have to stop seeing himself as the center of the universe; having been brought up in the ‘Me’ generation, the thought that the pursuit of happiness and self-fulfillment may not be the ultimate purpose of life, strikes at the very foundations of our cultural orientation.
How much more comfortable to pay lip service to a Creator who is not interested in me in the slightest; then I can carry on doing exactly as I want!
This is a bribe that most people find irresistible. The desires of the heart blind the intellect and the truth becomes its first victim. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch put it ‘Belief is not the knowledge that there is a G-d, but rather the acknowledgment.’
When Eliezer tested Rivka as a wife for Yitzchak, he sought only to find out if she had a love of kindness. Why didn’t he check that she also had the unshakeable faith in G-d that was necessary as the future mother of the Jewish People?
The answer is that kindness and faith are inextricably linked. Only one who is selflessly involved in the needs of others can free himself from the bribes of his own selfish desires. Only one who loves kindness for its own sake has the objectivity to recognize the Creator.
When Eliezer saw that Rivka loved kindness for it’s own sake — like Avraham — he knew she also had the objectivity needed for true faith, and that she was fit to be the mother of the Jewish People.
- Sources: Based on Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, zatzal, and Rabbi Nota Schiller, shlita, and Rabbi Zev Leff, shlita