Going above and beyond

In Parshat Chayei Sarah, the word chesed, loving kindness is mentioned many times.

As Avraham is getting older, he asks his servant to find a wife for Yitzchak. Avraham’s criterea are that she not be C’naanite, rather she should be from the land that Avraham came from (Charan) and if she is the right match, she must be brought to Yitzchak, as he may not leave the land of C’naan.

Avraham’s servant vows to try his best and he and his camels set out on the journey, eventually arriving at the well (Breisheet 24:12-14):

He (Avraham’s servant) said, “HaShem, God of my master, Avraham, be present before me today and do chesed (loving kindness) with my master, Avraham. Behold, here I stand by this well of water, and the daughters of the townsmen are coming out to draw water. Let it be that the maiden to whom I say, ‘Please tip over your pitcher that I may drink’ and she will say ‘Drink and I will also water your camels,’ will be the one whom You have determined for your servant, Yitzchak. With her I will know that you have done chesed with my master.”

According to Rashi, she will be the right match, worthy of entering the house of Avraham if she does gmilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness). If she will be from Avraham’s family and the right match for Yitzchak, then I (the servant) will know that You (God) have done chesed.

Rivka arrives at the well and rushes to give the servant as well as his camels as much water as they need. She then tells him that she is the daughter of Betuel, the son of Milka who is the daughter of Nachor (Avraham’s brother) and she invites him, as well as his camels to come over.

The servant is happy to see that she is performing acts of lovingkindness and that she is from the family of Avraham.

In 24:27 we read: “He said, ‘Blessed is HaShem, God of my master Avraham, Who has not abandoned chasdo v’amito (his loving kindness and truth) in dealing with my master. I am on the road and God has led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

Why does the servant need to mention chesed, loving kindness and emet, truth?

Radak points out that emet, truth is when someone works hard to succeed and God ensures that they will. Chesed, loving kindness goes above and beyond what one would have expected. Emet: he met a maiden who had good attributes and was suitable for Yitzchak. Chesed: she was also from Avraham’s family.

After the servant explains to Rivka’s family why he is there, he says (24:49): “Now if you (Lavan and Betuel) want to do chesed and emet to my master, tell me. If not, tell me, and I will turn to the right or to the left.”

In all of the earlier verses, the servant spoke about God doing chesed and emet. The terms chesed and emet are not used to describe Rivka, but we see her going above and beyond when she helps a stranger and his camels. Now, we see the servant asking Lavan and Betuel if they are willing to go above and beyond or not.

Radak suggests that the emet, truth is that Rivka should marry Yitzchak because she is the right match for him and she is also Avraham’s relative. The chesed, going beyond, would be the family having to send her far away.

At first Lavan and Betuel agree to send Rivka. However, shortly after, Lavan and their mother get cold feet and try to delay her journey. The servant explains that he has to go back. They ask Rivka if she wants to go and she states that she does want to go.

We see from here that in the end, Rivka’s brother and parents did not want to do chesed and emet with a full heart. Rivka, on the other hand stated that she wanted to go along with the servant to the land of C’naan. Earlier, we saw the chesed that she did with the servant and his camels. Rivka wants to do chesed and emet, become part of Avraham’s family and emulate God.

Although chesed and emet were not on Avraham’s original list of character traits for his servant to look for, Avraham’s servant understood that the right match would be someone who had these qualities. The way that Rivka ran around filling up the water reminds us of Avraham dashing to get the food prepared for his three guests. Rivka leaving her family and homeland behind reminds us of Avraham embarking on the trip to follow God’s path. Rivka was the right woman to become Yitzchak’s wife, Avraham’s daughter in law.

May we merit to perform acts of loving kindness, going above and beyond what may be expected of us.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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