A Modern-Day Rivkah

Vateired ha’aynah vatemalei chadah vata’al vayaratz ha’eved likrasah vayomer hagmi’ini na me’at mayim mikadeich
(Bereishis 24:16-17)

While Eliezer was still praying to Hashem to help him find an appropriate wife for Yitzchak, he noticed Rivkah approaching with her jug. After she filled it from a spring, Eliezer ran toward her and asked her to please give him a little water to drink. Why was he so enthusiastic to meet her? Rashi explains that as Rivkah approached the spring to draw water, Eliezer observed the water miraculously rise up to her. He hoped that this was an indication of her piety and virtue, which would make her a suitable choice for Yitzchak.

Harav Yisroel Reisman recounts an extraordinary contemporary application of this story, which he heard firsthand from the parties involved. The wife of a middle-aged man tragically passed away. After some time had gone by, he decided that he wanted to remarry. When he informed his family of his intentions, one of his sons, who was himself of marriageable age, questioned him about his plans.

The son maintained that it is much easier for a young couple to go on a date, for the newness enhances the outings and makes them more interesting. However, when a person is older and already has an established family, the dating experience is fundamentally different. Thus, his son asked his father how he expected to interact with potential spouses and determine whether they would be a good match for him.

The widower answered that he had also thought about this issue and was aware that his circumstances were different this time around. However, he took comfort in the fact that in Parashas Chayei Sarah, Eliezer did not set out to find a spouse for Yitzchak based on emotional or intellectual connections. Rather, he asked Hashem to give him a sign that would let him know when he had found the right girl, and when Eliezer saw the water miraculously rise up to Rivkah, he interpreted this as a Divine omen. The man told his son that he would also trust in Hashem to guide him and to give him a similar sign when he had met the right woman.

A short while later, a mutual acquaintance told him about a widow who was also looking to remarry, and the widower arranged a time to speak with her on the phone. However, when he called at the designated time, the woman apologized that she was unable to speak to him due to an emergency. She explained that her young children had just stopped up the toilet and the water in the toilet was “rising up” to her, so she needed to tend to the crisis right away.

Presumably, this woman was distraught by the thought that a suitable man was just then calling her to schedule a meeting, and at the worst possible moment her children created a flood in the bathroom that required her immediate attention. In reality, though, Hashem runs the world, and when the widower heard her say that the water was rising up to her — just as it did to Rivkah — he took it as a Divine indication that this woman was destined for him. Thus, the precise event that the widow thought had interfered with her opportunity to get remarried became the mechanism that enabled her to joyfully march down the aisle with her new chassan.
Q: Rashi writes (23:2) that the death of Sarah is juxtaposed to the binding of Yitzchak to teach that the shock and fear from hearing that her son was almost slaughtered was the cause of her death. How is it possible that the mitzvah of binding Yitzchak caused the death of Avraham’s beloved wife when the Gemara in Pesachim (8b) teaches that those who perform a mitzvah won’t be harmed in any way as a result of doing the mitzvah?

A: Hagaon Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, explains that the intention of the Gemara is that performing a mitzvah won’t cause additional suffering. However, if a person’s natural time to die arrives and he is righteous, Hashem will cause him to die while doing a mitzvah. The Midrash teaches (Koheles Rabbah 3:22) that one who does a mitzvah right before his death is considered to have observed all of the mitzvos in the Torah.

The M’rafsin Igri answers that although Hashem normally protects a person while he is doing a mitzvah, this principle was not applicable to the Akeidah, the entire purpose of which was to test Avraham’s devotion to Hashem even in difficult circumstances. In this case, permission was given to the Satan to make the situation even more difficult — by showing Avraham that his actions caused the death of his beloved wife — in order to magnify the trial and enable Avraham to earn greater reward.

Q: Was the year in which the shidduch between Yitzchak and Rivkah took place a Shemittah year?

A: The Ichud B’Chidud notes that Rashi writes (24:53) that Eliezer brought with him fruits from Eretz Yisrael, which he gave to Rivkah’s family to eat. The Rambam (Hilchos Shemittah v’Yovel 5:13) rules that it is forbidden to take fruits that grow in Eretz Yisrael during the Shemittah year outside of the country, and it is also prohibited to give these fruits to non-Jews. From the fact that Eliezer took the fruits with him outside of the Land, and gave them to Rivkah’s non-Jewish family, we can conclude that it was not a Shemittah year.

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.