Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Avraham Avinu sent his trusted servant, Eliezer, to find a suitable wife for his only son Yitzchak. Eliezer knew that he would only be successful if Hashem would help him and so he devised a plan in which he would test the girl to see if she is the one Hashem chose fit to be the bride of his master's heir. Since Avraham's household was astoundingly charitable, he decided that the best way to examine her character traits was through a difficult act of kindness. The Torah relates his prayer:
And he said, "Hashem, G-d of my master Avraham, may You so arrange it for me this day that You do kindness with my master Avraham. See, I stand here by the spring of water and the daughters of the townsmen come out to draw. Let it be that the maiden to whom I shall say, 'Please tip over your jug so I may drink,' and who replies, 'Drink, and I will even water your camels,' her will You have designated for Your servant, for Yitzchak; and may I know through her that You have done kindness with my master" (Bereishis 12-14).The rules were simple: Eliezer would ask the girl for a drink and she would offer to give his camels too, even though camels drink a lot of water. This would indicate that she is dedicated to chessed (loving-kindness) and is a perfect match for a son of Avraham.
Eliezer was so sure of his pact, that as soon as Rivka passed the test, he immediately gave her the gifts he had brought for the potential bride, without even asking her name and family background because he was convinced that she must be from the lineage of Avraham.
The question is, though, why did he wait so long? The sign Eliezer asked for, in his prayer, was that she was to reply, "Drink, and I will even water your camels." He did not specify that she had to actually do it. That being the case, as soon as she gave the right answer, he should have given her the presents right away, since she had passed the test he had agreed upon. Why then does it say, "And the man was wondering at her, reflecting silently to know whether Hashem had made his journey successful or not" (Ibid. 21)? What was he wondering about? Surely Hashem had granted him success. She had answered the question correctly; exactly as he had requested. Yet the Torah continues to relate, "And it was, when the camels had finished drinking, the man took a golden nose ring, its weight was a beka, and two bracelets on her arms, ten gold shekels was their weight" (Ibid 22). Only after she actually fulfilled her promise was he convinced that she was the one he was looking for. He was not satisfied with her words alone. Why not? Isn't this what he had asked for?
The answer, I believe, may be that Rivka ruined things a bit by speaking a little too much. Eliezer had only requested that the right girl reply, "Drink, and I will even water your camels." This would reveal her kind soul. But she actually said much more than that. She replied, "I will draw water even for your camels until they have finished drinking" (Ibid. 19). Since camels drink quite a lot, such a pledge, to draw water until ten camels are satiated, was a whopper of a promise. However, the Talmud teaches (Bava Metzia 87a), "The righteous ones speak a little and do a lot; the wicked ones speak a lot and don't do even a little." Eliezer was astonished to hear such a big offer from the mouth of this wonderful girl but decided that he must wait and see for himself if she actually means it or is just boasting like someone who writes a big check for tzedakah, impressing everyone who sees it, but, a week later, the check bounces.
Only after Rivka proved that she really was the essence of loving kindness and that she actually meant what she said; only after she brought enough water for all of the camels to drink until they were satiated; was Eliezer sure that Hashem had made his journey successful and then he gave her the gifts without even asking who she was.
We should learn from this not to boast about what we did or what we plan to do. Hashem likes those who are modest and quietly do everything they can, for His sake; not for the sake of publicity and honor. The world we live in is the world of doing. The world of honor and reward is yet to come. Let's be patient and wait for it until then.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network