This week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah (the Life of Sarah), includes the following topics: Sarah dies at the age of 120, and Abraham buys a cave that will be the burial spot for them and their descendants. After Sarah’s death, Abraham decides it is time to find the right wife for Isaac. It is an important decision because she will be one of the mothers, or matriarchs, of the Jewish people. This is also about moving on to the next generation, with Isaac and Rebecca representing the next group of Jewish leaders. Rebecca is chosen because she is kind and offers to give water to Abraham’s servant and to all of his camels. Rebecca gives her consent to going to Canaan to be Isaac’s wife. When Isaac takes Rebecca to Sarah’s tent, he is now comforted from the loss of his mother.
I was most interested in the part about how Abraham sends his most trusted servant to find the right wife for Isaac. Abraham tells the servant to go back to Abraham’s relatives to find the wife, and she must consent to come back to Canaan. In fact, he makes his servant swear that he will not take a wife for Abraham’s son from the daughters of the Canaanites.
There are two things I want to focus on from this section: how important it is to choose the right wife for Isaac; and how clear Abraham is that the prospective wife must agree both to the marriage and the move to Canaan. She has the right to make her own choice because she is a free person.
Abraham’s servant decides that he will choose a woman who offers him and his camels water and prays that this woman will appear. And she does. Rebecca shows up at the well and provides him and his 10 camels with water. The servant describes Rebecca as beautiful. We don’t know if he was describing her outside or inside qualities. I like to believe he was describing her as she was on the inside. Rebecca was generous, kind, helpful and strong.
According to Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz, we learn that the servant, who many commentators think is named Eliezer, felt that kindness was the way that he should evaluate Rebecca. Rabbi Luntschitz states: “Eliezer tested Rebecca’s quality of generosity and kindness only. … Did she have a generous and kindly personality and kind heart? For if she looked at people with a kindly eye then she was undoubtedly endowed with all the other sterling moral qualities.”
I don’t think there is anything wrong in paying attention to your appearance and fashion. It can be kind of fun. But we have to understand that someone who is selfish or hurts other people doesn’t become a good person just by looking good. From these traits we should understand that Rebecca’s traits model for us the qualities we should look for when we choose a partner for life. We learn from this parsha that we should judge people by their actions instead of by their appearance.
Michael Martin is a seventh-grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.