Not just a pretty face – Chayei Sarah

In a world where there are all sorts of books, manuals, magazine articles and other publications that proffer advice as to finding/keeping/maintaining a relationship with a spouse, it would perhaps do us good to investigate what the Torah advises us to do in such a situation. What are the qualities that one looks for?

While I normally only summarise or highlight several commentaries, on this occasion I wanted to take the opportunity to fully relay the comment of Rabbi Yosef Dov Ber Soloveitchik (1820-1892), author of the work, Beis HaLevi. Eliezer is sent on a mission by his master Avraham to seek out a wife for Yitzchak. The Torah relates to us that Eliezer composed a very specific prayer as to who would be considered the appropriate mate of Yitzchak – that she would offer Eliezer to drink at the well, and would subsequently water his camels as well.

The Beis HaLevi comments that this was the case because he wanted to test both her character traits and her intelligence. First of all, would she be good enough to give a stranger to drink directly from her jar? Eliezer had no straw or other type of cup. Furthermore, perhaps she would be suspicious that the stranger was unwell or contagious and as a result, she would not be able to take the water home with her, perhaps he had spat in the jar? Nor could she pour the remaining water out as that would be just as disrespectful to Eliezer, especially in front of his whole entourage. Rather, she offered to water his camels with the remaining water obviating the potentially embarrassing episode.

While this is compelling, there remains one outstanding point: Eliezer had only asked that she offer both him and his camels. Rivka makes clear that she would water the camels until they were satisfied, to remove any doubt that she was merely sparing the honour of Eliezer as previously explained, and that she was truly motivated with good intentions.

As a result, Eliezer knew that not only was she have positive character traits, but that they were coupled with a sharp intelligence as well, the right composition to be the spouse of Yitzchak

About the Author
David Gross was born in Geneva and grew up in London. He graduated from UCL in 2010 with a B.A. in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He has previously served as Southern Fieldworker of Bnei Akiva UK. He has studied and taught in Yeshivat HaKotel, and currently teaches in Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi. He will be starting an MBA at Bar Ilan in the coming academic year.
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