17 Nov 2022 Parshas Chayei Sara: Two Kinds of Chessed
In this week’s sedra, Chayei Sarah, we learn of the death of Sarah Imeinu, Avraham’s purchase of the Me’aras Ha’Machpela, and the burial of Sarah (Bereishis 23). After Sarah’s passing, Avraham realizes he must marry-off his son, Yitzchak (Bereishis 24:1 w/ Rashi), who will continue in his parents ways.
The first shidduch in our history is told to us, as Avraham’s trusty servant (who the sages identify as Eliezer), returns to Avraham’s land, birth place and family, and finds Rivka, who will become the second matriarch.
Rikva is a true woman of valor, whose very essence is defined by her gemillus chassadim. Not only does she give the servant to drink – a hot, weary, tired traveler (who she has never met before!) – but she draws sufficient water to give all of his camels to drink as well. When the servant sees that she is a ba’alas chessed, he gives her jewelry as gifts of betrothal. After obtaining permission – as well as a blessing – from her family, Rikva returns with the servant to marry Yitzchak (Bereishis 24).
וְיִצְחָק֙ בָּ֣א מִבּ֔וֹא בְּאֵ֥ר לַחַ֖י רֹאִ֑י וְה֥וּא יוֹשֵׁ֖ב בְּאֶ֥רֶץ הַנֶּֽגֶב – Now Yitzchak was on his way, coming from Be’er Lachai Ro’i, and he dwelt in the land of the south; וַיֵּצֵ֥א יִצְחָ֛ק לָשׂ֥וּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶ֖ה לִפְנ֣וֹת עָ֑רֶב וַיִּשָּׂ֤א עֵינָיו֙ וַיַּ֔רְא וְהִנֵּ֥ה גְמַלִּ֖ים בָּאִֽים – And Yitzchak went out to pray [the afternoon mincha prayer] in the field towards evening, and he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, camels were approaching; וַתִּשָּׂ֤א רִבְקָה֙ אֶת־עֵינֶ֔יהָ וַתֵּ֖רֶא אֶת־יִצְחָ֑ק וַתִּפֹּ֖ל מֵעַ֥ל הַגָּמָֽל – And Rivka lifted her eyes, and saw Yitzchak, and she fell from upon the camel (24:62-64).
What is the meaning of Yitzchak’s return, at this particular moment, from Be’er Lachai Ro’i? Why had he gone there in the first place, and what was the purpose of his journey? Rashi (quoting Medrash Bereishis Rabbah) tells us: מבוא באר לחי רואי. שֶׁהָלַךְ לְהָבִיא הָגָר לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִיו שֶׁיִּשָּׂאֶנָּה – that he (Yitzchak) went to bring Hagar to Avraham his father, so that he (Avraham) should marry her.
And in fact, once Yitzchak marries Rivka (24:67), the very next pasuk tells us: וַיֹּ֧סֶף אַבְרָהָ֛ם וַיִּקַּ֥ח אִשָּׁ֖ה וּשְׁמָ֥הּ קְטוּרָֽה – and Avraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah (25:1). Who was Keturah? Rashi teaches that she was Hagar.
The sequence here is incredible. Yitzchak is aware that his father’s servant has gone to bring him a wife. He knows that soon he will marry and leave the home of his father. In the aftermath of his own mother’s passing, Yitzchak has the foresight to realize that his father Avraham will be alone. So before his own kallah is brought to him, he goes to bring Hagar back to his father.
Ha’Rav Yaakov Bender shlita writes, “When we learn Chumash with Rashi, we gain both Torah and yiras Shomayim, and in every teaching, there are lessons as to how to live life properly…
“In speaking with almanos and yesomos (widows and orphans) the hashkafic questions are not easy, the ‘why’s’ and ‘how come’s’, but much more difficult is when it comes to speaking to children whose parents wish to remarry. Make no mistake, it is very difficult for a child to have a strange person in the house, and no child feels like welcoming new ‘siblings’. I always try to make them understand the other side of the story. These children will eventually get married and leave the house, building a family of their own, but their mothers might remain alone for many, many years, and now have the chance to remarry someone suitable.
“It calls for real sensitivity, concern and self-sacrifice. It is never an easy conversation, but the words of Rashi speak to us loud and clear, and can be a tremendous source of chizuk for all. Rashi on this passage describes the awe that fell over Rivka Imeinu when she first beheld Yitzchak, the man of pure yiras Shomayim. ‘She fell from upon the camel.’ What was Yitzchak involved in at this time that was so holy and pure? Yes, he set out to pray the afternoon Mincha prayer, but right before that? He was returning from Be’er Lachai R’oi to bring Hagar for his father, so that Avraham should marry her.
“We talk a lot about the gemillus chessed of Rivka, the necessary middah for a mother of Klal Yisrael. But Rashi is teaching us not to overlook the selflessness of Yitzchak Avinu! He was going to build his own home, but what about his father, who would now be alone? These were Yitzchak’s hachanos (preparations) for his own wedding – taking care of his father and bringing back Hagar.
“And this should guide us still. Sometimes, a child has to realize that his parent is suffering, and it takes a special strength to help out. It is part of who we are, part of the way our nation was formed all the way at the very beginning” (Rav Yaakov Bender on Chumash, p.67-68).
Perhaps Rashi is teaching us something deeper as well. Rivka’s chessed was altruistic, without boundaries, and absolutely selfless. For this reason alone, she was chosen to be our second matriarch. This kind of chessed is necessary for the survival of our nation.
But there is another kind of chessed that is just as important, yet sometimes less spoken about and less of a focus. Rivka did chessed for a stranger; Yitzchak did chessed for family. Rikva did chessed at the spring of water in town; Yitzchak did chessed in the home. Rivka did chessed for another; Yitzchak did chessed for his own.
Perhaps, Rashi is teaching us that while chessed for others is of absolute paramount importance for our national well being and destiny, we must not forget that chessed for those in our homes, for our families, for those closest to us, is just as important. We cannot be too busy with chessed for others that we neglect those in our home in need.
Every dinner prepared and served, every bedtime story read, every load of laundry washed, every errand run for our family, every family meal when we sit down together, and every listening ear holds up our world.
Perhaps this is one reason why Yitzchak and Rivka’s shidduch was the perfect match. Her actions in the sedra represent chessed outside the home, his represent chessed in the home, and together they merge to create the beautiful tapestry of gemillus chessed for which our nation is legendary.
,בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום