Eliezer Testing Rebecca
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Eliezer was sent by his master Abraham to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s son. His swore to find a wife from Abraham’s family. Eliezer reached Aram Naharayim and stopped at the well, one location where people meet. He prayed to God that He should send him a woman who would not only respond the his request for his own water, but a woman who would initiate hospitality in the form of watering his camels as well, without request.
“And it as that he had even finished speaking (to God) behold Rebecca came out, born to Besuale, the son of Milka, wife of Nachor, the brother of Abraham and her with her pitcher on her shoulder”. (Gen. 24:15)
Of course Eliezer had no knowledge of her lineage, but the Torah teaches how God prepares most efficiently for the righteous. The prayer was not even complete, yet the response was already at hand.
What happens next catches one’s eye, “...she went down to the well, she filled her pitcher, and then ascended. And the servant (Eliezer) ran to greet her and said, ‘let me sip please, a little water from your pitcher. And she said, ‘drink my master’, and she rushed and took down the pitcher from her shoulder and gave him to drink. And when he finished drinking, she said ‘I will also draw for your camels until they finish drinking’. And she rushed and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and she ran yet again to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels.”
Allow me to focus your attention on a problem, “...she went down to the well, she filled her pitcher, and then ascended. And the servant (Eliezer) ran to greet her...” Pause here for a moment. What strikes you?
What strikes me as I read this is one question, “Why the delay?” There must have been at least ten minutes which passed as “she went down to the well, she filled her pitcher, and then ascended.” It is clear that time passed; yet Eliezer did not budge. His latter sentiment not to delay bringing Rebecca back to Isaac teaches that he was not wasting time. So if he saw her appear as he finished his prayer, why did he not approach her at that very moment? Why did he wait until “she went down to the well, she filled her pitcher, and then ascended?”
Let us better formulate the question: What was there to gain by waiting until Rebecca filled her pitcher? We can refine this question further, “In searching for a woman with the best qualities, what did Eliezer feel he would learn by waiting for Rebecca to fill her pitcher?” The answer is now apparent. Eliezer desired to learn how far Rebecca would go in her kindness. As Eliezer waits until Rebecca draws her own water, her offer is all the more gracious than if she would draw the water knowingly for another. When one works for herself, there is a connection with the object of their labor. To part with water drawn for herself, Rebecca would display a higher level of kindness. For this reason, Eliezer waited until she drew the water - for herself - and only then, asked for it. He intended to see if she would part with water she drew for herself. We see that not only did Eliezer respond to Abraham’s request, but he thought into the best manner of responding to his master. Ironically, Eliezer’s own perfection mirrors Rebecca’s, as they both responded to requests as best they could. Simply responding to a request in kind is not reflective of a high caliber individual. The righteous are perfected. They see a need, and think into the best way to respond. This may very well explain why Eliezer formulated his approach to Rebecca as he did. He too partook of the very kindness he sought in a mate for Isaac.
Notice, Eliezer’s request was “let me sip please, a little water from your pitcher”. He asked for a little, and received much. Not only did Rebecca give of her own, but she gave more than requested of her, and she gave all he needed, even though it meant watering all his camels, and did so with speed, again, to accommodate as best she could.