והיה הנער אשׁר אמר אליה הטי־נא כדך ואשׁתה ואמרה שׁתה וגם־גמליך אשׁקה אתה
הכחת לעבדך ליצחק ובה אדע כי־עשׂית חסד עם־אדני׃
I will say to one of the girls, 'Please lower your jug, so that I can drink.' If she answers, 'Yes, drink; and I will water your camels as well,' then let her be the one you intend for your servant Yitz'chak. This is how I will know that you have shown grace to my master."
(Gen 24:14 CJB)
In par'shat Vayera, three 'strangers' come to Father Avraham (Gen 18:2). When Avraham sees them he offers what sounds like a light snack, but ends up serving a banquet (Gen 18:4-8). This teaches us that, contrary to modern successful business and political practices which prides in offering much and delivering little, we should always offer little, and deliver much.
In Par'shat Chayei Sarah, Eliezer, Avraham's servant is charged to travel back to his master's family in Iraq, near to what could be called Babylon, in order to find and vet a wife for Isaac. This would prove to be a very important task that Eliezer felt incapable of accomplishing, he therefore enrolled the help of He whom he called the God of Avraham. He prayed in the following terms,
"Adonai, God of my master Avraham,
please let me succeed today;
and show your grace to my master Avraham."
(Gen 24:12 CJB)
Eliezer knew that the wife of Isaac should become the new matriarch. She would walk in Sarah's shoes. The virtue and character therefore of the sought bride was of utmost importance. She would also have to leave her home in 'Babylon'. Eliezer then established a vetting system. Taking a page from his master's rule book of ethics he prayed,
"Here I am, standing by the spring, as the daughters of the townsfolk come out to draw water. I will say to one of the girls, 'Please lower your jug, so that I can drink.' If she answers, 'Yes, drink; and I will water your camels as well,' then let her be the one you intend for your servant Yitz'chak. This is how I will know that you have shown grace to my master."
(Gen 24:13-15 CJB)
In essence, he said, "I will ask for a little water, but if the girl offers more than I asked, I know that this is she whom HaShem has chosen." To appreciate this, it is important to know that a thirsty camel can drink as many as 30 gallons of water in about 13 minutes..
Before he had finished speaking, Rivkah the daughter of B'tu'el son of Milkah the wife of Nachor Avraham's brother, came out with her jug on her shoulder. ... The servant ran to meet her and said, "Please give me a sip of water from your jug to drink." "Drink, my lord," she replied, and immediately lowered her jug onto her arm and let him drink. When she was through letting him drink, she said, "I will also draw water for your camels until they have drunk their fill." She quickly emptied her jug into the trough, then ran again to the well to draw water, and kept on drawing water for all his camels. The man gazed at her in silence, waiting to find out whether Adonai had made his trip successful or not. When the camels were done drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing one-fifth of an ounce and two gold bracelets weighing four ounces
(Gen 24:15-22 CJB)
Eliezer knew that anyone who would do that had a very great sense of chesed, altruism, virtue, goodness, etc ...
In his writings about that part of the text, Rashi makes a good point about the fact that it is a person's acts of kindness that reveal their true virtue, not miracles done on their behalf. Here is an anecdote heard from rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik from Rosh Hayeshiva of Brisk in Jerusalem to illustrate the point. "A Jewish scholar asks the question, "Why did Abraham's servant Eliezer run to meet Rivka?" To answer his question, Rashi cites a midrash. This midrash cited by the venerated scholar states that Eliezer ran because he saw the waters of the well miraculously rise to meet Rivka. Although Eliezer was said to witness this event, he did not consider it sufficient evidence to prove that she was worthy to be Isaac's wife. A test of her eagerness to do chesed [acts of mercy and kindness] was still necessary. From here we see that even if a person is worthy of having miracles perform on his behalf, he is not deemed truly worthy unless he performs acts of chesed."
In the same vein Moshe warned us not to determine the validity of a prophet solely by his miracle-workings. He advises the Children of Israel,
"If a prophet or someone who gets messages while dreaming arises among you and he gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder comes about as he predicted when he said, 'Let's follow other gods, which you have not known; and let us serve them,' you are not to listen to what that prophet or dreamer says. For Adonai your God is testing you, in order to find out whether you really do love Adonai your God with all your heart and being. (Deu 13:1-3)
Our master will also use the same parameters with his people and disciples at his return. He warned,...
... On that Day, many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord! Didn't we prophesy in your name? Didn't we expel demons in your name? Didn't we perform many miracles in your name?' Then I will tell them to their faces, 'I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!' (Mat 7:22-23)
... and at the end of days ...
... "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, accompanied by all the angels, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The 'sheep' he will place at his right hand and the 'goats' at his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' The King will say to them, 'Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!' (Mat 25:31-40)
Back to Rivka at the well.
Rivka passed the test. She was worthy of filling Sarah' shoes, to inhabit Sarah's 'tent'.
The sages learned from "Isaac thus found comfort after his mother's death" (Gen. 24:67) that Rebekah's deeds resembled those of Sarah (Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer).
The midrash states that as long as Sarah lived, a cloud was visible over her tent, and when she died the cloud departed; when Rebekah came, the cloud returned. All the days of Sarah's life the gates of the tent were wide open, but once she died, that opening ceased; when Rebekah came, that opening returned. All of Sarah's days a blessing was in the dough, and the lamp burned in her tent from one Sabbath eve to the next, but they ceased upon her death; when Rebekah came, they returned. Isaac saw that Rebekah acted in the same manner as had his mother: she kneaded dough in purity and set aside her hallah in purity. Immediately (v. 67) "Isaac then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah" (Gen. Rabbah 60:16).
These midrashic expositions stress the close similarity between Sarah and Rebekah. The commandments such as baking a challa and of lighting two candles on Friday evening for the Shabbat are commandments reserved for women. Isaac sought in a wife the specific traits that would remind him of his mother and her righteousness. Even though he himself did not select Rebekah, she was the suitable wife for him, because her actions were like those of his mother. Thereby goes the true saying that a man often looks for a second mother in a prospective wife.
In our midrash last week we mentioned about Sarah's two abductions being as Jerusalem's Babylonian and Roman exiles. We spoke of Isaac's climbing Mt Moriah to certain death and resurrection (which happened as in the parable (see last week's newsletter)) foreshadowing Messiah's climb to certain death on Mt Golgotha, death from which He resurrected. Also, just as after the binding of Isaac, Sarah dies, paralleling the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans shortly after Yeshua's crucifixion.
In our text this week, Isaac disappears from the Torah narrative. He only reappears when he meets Rivka as she arrives with Eliezer. The sages asked, "Where was Isaac all this time?" Some sages boldly assumed hat after the binding on Mt Moriah, Isaac went to HaShem to get healed of his wounds and to learn Torah.
Except for the disappearing of Isaac for several, the Torah offers no clues as to what happened to him. But the scholar who dared to suggest that Isaac went to learn Torah from the Father might have been on to something. If Isaac foreshadowed Yeshua both carrying the wood of their own sacrifice on the same mountain, then the idea idea of Isaac going to God foreshadows the pattern of Yeshua going to God to sit at the right hand of the father after the Crucifixion. And what's more, as Isaac reappears only to meet his bride to be, we also expect that at the time appointed by His Father, Yeshua will return to marry His bride (Rev 19) who will also have been challenged to come out of Babylon (the world)(Rev 18:1-5).
As Sarah's tent (Jerusalem) revives when Rivka, the wife of the dead and resurrected son of Abraham moves in, Jerusalem at the end of days will again fulfill its destiny as our Master returns also to marry His bride, a bride who does not go and live in a different 'house', practicing a different 'religion', in a different lifestyle, but one who fully occupies our Jewish mother Sarah's tent and shoes.
THE CONGREGATIONS THAT ARE CALLED THE 'BRIDE'
LIVE IN SARAH'S TENT AND SHOES.
MAY WE ALSO ANSWER THE CALL
TO LEAVE THE SELFISHNESS, PRIDE, ARROGANCE, VIOLENCE,
AND HATRED OF BABYLON,
AND LIVE IN THE PRACTICE OF THE SAME
VIRTUE, HUMILITY, ALTRUISM, FAITHFULNESS, HOSPITALITY,
AND LOVE AS SARAH OUR MOTHER.