Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 26 October 2013 / 22 Heshvan 5774

Parshat Chayei Sara

by Rabbi Pinchas Kasnett
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In this week’s Torah portion Avraham sends his servant Eliezer on a long journey with a large entourage of men and camels to his family's residence in Haran to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. In order to find the perfect girl, Eliezer devises the following test:

He would stand by a well of water in such a way that it would be easy for him or his men to get water for themselves and their camels. He would then ask the first girl to come by to give him water even though it appeared that he could take care of himself. The normal response to such a request would be, "You are standing by the well. Go ahead and take water yourself." Eliezer, however, was looking for someone with extraordinary perception and generosity, one who would assume that there was some unusual reason for him to make such a request. Perhaps all of the men were totally exhausted or seriously ill, even though they appeared perfectly normal. If she passes this initial test, Eliezer intends to speak to her to find out if she has other necessary traits such as modesty, openness to hosting guests and roots in a G-d-fearing family.

Rivka immediately appears and goes quickly to the well and Eliezer has to run to meet her. When he reaches her, she has already filled her pitcher and is on the way back to the city. She could have responded, "Why don't you just go to the well yourself?" or "Why didn't you ask me when I was at the well? Now I have to go all the way back to the well!" However, she doesn't question him at all. Rather, she says with great respect, "Drink, my Master." Also, rather than asking him to remove the heavy pitcher from her shoulder, she lowers the pitcher and gives him to drink. Then, completely unsolicited, she offers to take care of not just the camels' immediate thirst, but "until they have finished drinking", knowing full well that camels have an enormous capacity to store water. She was not at all concerned about the difficulty of the job, the delay, or the fact that apparently able-bodied men would sit idly by while she labored. Additionally, Rivka does not say, "I will water your camels." Rather, she says, "I will draw water for your camels." That is to say. 'I don't know if the camels are thirsty or not, but I will nonetheless draw water for them and they will drink if they wish.'

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