Chayei Sara/Toldot

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Eliezer's Gift

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

In Parshat Chayei Sara, Avraham sends Eliezer (his trusted servant) to find one of Avraham’s relatives to marry Yitzchak. Eliezer arrives at a water well close to the dwelling place of Avraham’s family and prays for God’s assistance. He asks God for a sign to know that he has found the right match for Yitzchak—a young lady that exhibits kindness,  specifically, assisting him and his camels in drawing water. To his amazement this occurs, and the Torah records his next steps:

“Now it came about, when the camels had finished drinking, [that] the man took a golden nose ring, weighing half [a shekel], and two bracelets for her hands, weighing ten gold [shekels]. And he said, ‘Whose daughter are you? Please tell me. Is there place for us for lodging in your father’s house?’” (Genesis 24, 22-23)

Rashi, quoting our sages, explains that the nose ring weighing half a shekel is a hint to the half shekel donation that the Jewish people would give annually in the future toward communal sacrifices. The two bracelets are a hint to the two tablets that Moses received on Mt. Sinai, and their weight of ten gold shekels is a hint to the Ten Commandments. Why does Eliezer, at this juncture, hint to the half shekel and the Ten Commandments? Additionally, the commentators are troubled by Eliezer’s behavior. Surely, he should have first verified that the young lady (Rivka) was indeed from Avraham’s family before giving her gifts?

This Mishna in Ethics of the Fathers states that the world stands upon three pillars: 1) Torah (Torah study), 2) Avodah (service of God), and 3) Gemilut Chasadim (loving kindness). The Maharal of Prague, in his commentary on Rashi, explains that Eliezer was showing Rivka that while she had already acquired the pillar of Gemilut Chasadim, by joining Abraham’s family she would attain the other two pillars (the pillar of Torah and the pillar of Avodah). This explains the various gifts given to Rivka as that time.

With regards to Eliezer giving gifts to the young lady before verifying that she was indeed from Avraham’s family, Rashi writes: “…because he was confident and had trust that in the merit of Avraham, the Holy One, blessed be He, had caused his way to prosper.” This is reminiscent of the Jewish people stating “We will do, and we will listen” when being offered the Torah. How could they commit to fulfilling the Torah before hearing what it involved? The Jewish people could commit before hearing the contents of the Torah, because they trusted that God had their best interests at heart. The message is simple: trust and faith in God must be the foundation for the three pillars of loving kindness, service of God, and Torah study.