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Rivka: An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove

Published on Wednesday April 3th, 2019

Rivka is the second of our four matriarchs, which means that she symbolizes one of the four Divine fundamental and feminine principles which were transmitted to us from generation to generation through the spiritual chain of the Jewish people.

Eliezer was given the mission of the utmost importance by his master Avraham: “But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son, even for Isaac” (Bereshit 24:4). It is thus in the land of Canaan that Eliezer is looking for a wife worthy of marrying Isaac. To make sure that she possesses the necessary qualities to enter Avraham’s dynasty, he makes an agreement with G-d: “So let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say: Let down your pitcher, I pray you, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give your camels drink also; let the same be she that You has appointed for your servant, even for Isaac; and thereby shall I know that You has shown kindness unto my master” (Bereshit 24:14).

Therefore, upon arriving in the land of Canaan, he is nearby a well and sees Rivka, who the Torah describes as a generous and good person. Upon Eliezer’s request, she draws water for him while it’s the first time they are meeting. Nonetheless, Eliezer could have drawn water for himself and his servants, but Rivka agrees. Not only does she agree, but she offers to give water to his camels as well: we are talking about over ten camels that traveled from Beer Sheva to Aram Naharaim! They need to drink hundreds upon hundreds of liters of water, and, despite that, Eliezer remains quiet and still, looking at Rivka getting tired by drawing such a large amount of water for his camels!  

Silent? Not really! The latter was witnessing the scene and was completely astonished by the young girl’s boundless loving-kindness. Full of gratitude towards Hashem, he thanks G-d and knows that she is the woman meant for Isaac. Indeed, Avraham’s house is one where we value selfless kindness, and Rivka proved to be worthy to be part of it because she accomplished a pure act of kindness, which means that she did not wait for anything in return by doing so.

It is this same generosity that will allow Rivka to become Sarah’s successor. There is a continuity starting with Eve, the mother of all creatures, until Sarah and then Rivka. As Kohelet states: “The sun rises, the sun sets”; the Midrash comments on this passage: “The Holy One, blessed be He, did not allow Sarah’s sun to disappear that Rivka’s already shone”.

However, let us not be mistaken about Rivka! One may think that she is a young and naive girl who lets a stranger take advantage of her good heart. The exact opposite is true! Rivka is one of the strongest women around: she lives amongst corrupt people and was raised in a dishonest family, like all those who surround her. And yet, our Sages speak of her as “the rose amongst a thorn bush”.

She lets herself be overridden neither by her father nor by her brother, Betuel, and Lavan, one more insidious than the other, who both attempt to discourage to leave with Eliezer. Nonetheless, especially in this time period, a daughter must obey her father, but it is not the case for Rivka: “I will go, even if you do not agree” (Bereshit Rashi 24, 58).

This strength of character got imbued amongst her descendants from one generation to the next. Even amongst a corrupt environment, from the Egypt slave system to our shaky moral world, going through the cossacks and totalitarian USSR, Jewish women of valor succeeded in maintaining Judaism’s traditional values, therefore creating an aura of peace in the most depraved societies.

Rivka embodies the strong woman who takes responsibility for her decisions and remains faithful to her values. Even after her wedding with Isaac, it is she who will establish the household’s fundamental principles and values. May we all be as strong as Rivka and remain pure and faithful to Torah values, even when our environment is not prone to it!

Simcha G - © Torah-Box Account

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