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Chayei Sarah

Chayei Sara - How Should You Choose a Partner?

Eliezer knew exactly what important qualities to look for in a wife that would fit our father Isaac. But the reality was that Rebecca was far beyond what he had hoped for

Chayei Sara - How Should You Choose a Partner?
In this week's Torah reading, Abraham's servant Eliezer was sent to Mesopotamia to find a woman worthy of Isaac. Eliezer arrives in Charan and asks G-d for a sign so he will know who is the woman worthy of Isaac (Gen. 24:13-14): "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,' You have designated her for Your servant, for Isaac."

Eliezer’s request must be understood. He is not asking for a mere sign, but for proof that the girl has the virtuous qualities that any worthy woman should have, and that especially the wife of Isaac must have.

First Eliezer asks, "And it will be that the maiden to whom I will say, 'Lower your pitcher and I will drink,' and she will say, 'Drink!" This demonstrates above all a good heart, generosity and desire to help.

But it is not enough. There are many people who have a good heart, but lack wisdom and insight. The woman he wanted for Isaac on the one hand would know how to dispense kindness, but on the other, would know how to do this with wisdom and sensitivity. Sometimes while trying to be kind to another, a person may hurt or insult him.

So Eliezer decides to test Rebecca for her sensitivity and attention to small details by asking her to drink from the pitcher. If she responds to his request but lacks common sense, she’ll take the rest of the water jug ​​to her house, and her family members will drink from the bottle that the stranger drank from. How does she know that he’s healthy? Maybe he’s sick? If she takes the pitcher with the rest of the water home, this is proof enough that she lacks understanding abut health and cultural concerns.

There is another possibility: after he finishes drinking from the jug, she could simply pour the remaining water on the ground. But there is a downside to this approach too — it is disrespectful and insulting to him. Just because he drank from the jug why is she throwing out the rest of the water as if he’s a sick man?

There is, however, a third option that safely and wisely avoids all problems: “and she will say, 'Drink, and I will also water your camels.'" After he drinks, she will give the rest to the camels, and then no one will be hurt or insulted. She will have demonstrated kindness, sensitivity to others’ feelings and common sense at problem solving.

Eliezer was surprised at Rebecca’s kindness, wisdom and sensitivity far above what he had hoped for. As the verses go on to relate, when Eliezer asked for a drink (Gen. 24:18-19): "And she said, ‘Drink, my lord.’ And she hastened and lowered her pitcher to her hand, and she gave him to drink. After she finished giving him to drink, she said, ‘I will also draw for your camels, until they will have finished drinking.’"   

Not only she gave the rest of the water in the jug ​​to the camels, but she continued drawing water for them. She showed that her kindness was even loftier than Eliezer’s, as if she was saying: "If I put the rest of the water from the pitcher into the camels’ trough, you might think I'm doing this to not offend you. So I’ll draw even more fresh water for the camels. You can rest assured that I gave the rest of the water from the pitcher out of a desire to feed them, so you won’t feel uncomfortable in any way."

This is a woman of valor: good-hearted, but also wise and sensitive to others. She is the most suitable woman for Isaac and to be the matriarch of the Jewish people. We can learn from her how to do any act of kindness and good deed with wisdom and sensitivity while maintaining the dignity of the recipient. Shabbat Shalom.