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22 Cheshvan 5766 - November 23, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
One of a Kindness: Parshas Chayei Soroh

by Yaacov Polskin

This week's sedra relates how Yitzchok met Rivkoh Imeinu, in detail. While anyone can easily retell the episode of the well, to actually glean direction from the pesukim can prove a formidable task.

Much like a folio of Talmud, one must be able to navigate Torah Shebichsav — the Written Law — in order to properly comprehend its finer points.

Rav Yissochor Ber Ginsberg, brother of the Vilna Gaon, in his commentary Tzuf Devash, offers an original observation of this parsha — Avrohom Ovinu's approach versus Eliezer's actual implementation as well as novel insights about Rivkah's signature trait, chessed; it has timeless ramifications that merit attention and scrutiny.

Eliezer's Objective

The Tzuf Devash coins a signature phrase about Eliezer's mission: "Kosheh lilkot shoshanah, keshoshanah bein hachochim" — the hardest quest is to pluck a beautiful rose from amongst the thorns. Similarly, as Avrohom dispatched the steward of his household, Eliezer, to his kin in his native homeland of Choron to procure a suitable match for his son, he was keenly aware of the hurdles that had to be overcome from the likes of Lovon and his father Besu'el. To remedy this he blessed Eliezer that a Heavenly angel accompany him as he reached Choron and approached the family for their daughter.

Eliezer did things markedly differently, however. He traveled from Canaan and reached the outskirts of the city near the be'er, but he stopped there. He had now done a measure of what we commonly refer to as hishtadlus — what can be achieved from a human standpoint — and asked Hakodosh Boruch Hu to do the rest. Here was his strategy to determine which woman was the destined spouse:

In those days there was no piped water, and no easily accessible drinking water from the tap in one's house. One had to approach the well outside the city towards evening, possibly standing in line, and fill jugs of water for the entire family to share. Nowadays, imagine standing in line at the pump to fill one's car with gasoline and yielding one's place in line to another.

As the Tzuf Devash describes it, the period towards evening was the time when all the water drawers gathered at the well to fill their vessels to sustain an entire family for the night with sufficient water. In his words, "hasho'oh dechukoh" — this was obviously a tense moment. It wasn't easy to take time out and assist someone else as everyone was preoccupied with a hectic task of their own. If someone would nonetheless display selflessness and draw water for Eliezer to drink, this would be a sign of worthiness that merited joining the ranks of Avrohom's progeny.

Genuine Generosity

"Vatemaher" — "she hurried and filled the vessel" — this word captures the essence of the nature of the chessed that Rivkoh had done. Why? It is not just what you do, but how you go about doing it. This has implications for any mitzvah a Yid does each day. Rav Yissochor Ber writes, "Nidvas halev hi nishmas hama'aseh." One's heartfelt action breathes vitality and life into the mitzvah; it is its soul. He continues, "veha'os al zeh hazerizus," — the barometer to measure how much nedivus, or goodwill a person invests, is the speed, the zerizus that he puts into it to get it done!

As she hurried to do Eliezer's request, Rivkoh's chessed was amplified and refined tenfold. Similarly, whether davening, studying Torah or just about any other mitzvah, the same hold true, the manner in which they are performed sets the tone and enhances their quality immeasurably.

Capable and Resourceful

According to Rav Yosef Tataitzak [Constantinople, circa. 1540], Eliezer's tefilloh asked for a spouse for Yitzchok who possessed seichel with resourcefulness. How so?

When he davened that she offer him drink and offer drink for the camels as well; there was a veiled intention here. She told Eliezer, "You may drink," and offered to give the camels water as well. In those days, drinking water was a precious commodity, not to be wasted. As Eliezer finished drinking, instead of spilling out the excess, if she would put it to good use by giving it to the animals — this showed the ability to improvise and to make the best of a situation, a prerequisite for married life.

According to the Tzuf Devash, Hashgochoh prodded Rivkoh away from her home to the outskirts of the city. She randomly left her house to draw water for the household and came back a kallah. This could only mean one thing: "Mei'Hashem yotzoh hadovor" — this was Divine Providence at work!


Even so, her father and brother were not overjoyed and were straightforward about the prospect. They told Eliezer, "Here is Rivkoh, take her and go." The Imrei Shefer comments, that their intention was, "We're not offering a dowry — take the principal and that is all!"

Then the posuk subsequently says the servant took out silver and gold vessels and distributed them. In this manner, Eliezer made a statement, "As you can see, my master Avrohom is really quite wealthy; we're mochel the neduniah and agree to do the shidduch anyway."

The next day, a sudden request was made — let her stay here for a while. Why the abrupt change? Rav Leib Grobart, author of the responsa Chavolim Ban'imim, explains that the offer to bring Rivkoh immediately to Canaan underscores her family's cunning. This was a ruse to make Eliezer rethink the whole matter — why are they so eager? Is there a bill of goods here I'm unaware of, some discrepancy about the prospective bride that I overlooked? Despite this, he agreed to return home; when Lovon realized the charade didn't work as planned, he stated clearly that she stay for a while. Eliezer persisted, however; why delay me when Hashem granted me success? He asked that Rivkoh be able to make the trek back to Canaan at once.

The Tzuf Devash comments, from here one can derive that if a person realizes something is decreed from Above, it should be expedited quickly while hatzlochoh is still fresh and vibrant; also, doing things with zeal shows a person's conscientiousness about the Dvar Hashem that took place.

Thus, Yitzchok was destined to get his zivug. "Where there's a Divine will, there's a way."

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