Abraham and Rebecca: Leaders in Kindness and Hospitality
By Rabbi Daniela
This week’s parashah, parashat Chayyei Sarah, begins by telling us about Sarah’s death and her burial at the cave of Machpela. After this, Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to Haran in order to find a wife for his son Isaac.
When Abraham’s servant came to the spring of Haran, he met a young woman who was carrying a jar on her shoulder. Then, it is written in the Torah: “The servant ran toward her and said, “Please, let me sip a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and she quickly lowered her jar upon her hand and let him drink. When she had let him drink his fill, she said, “I will also draw for your camels, until they finish drinking.” Quickly emptying her jar into the trough, she ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels.” (Bereshit 24: 18-20)
After these actions, Abraham’s servant realized that this young woman would be the appropriate wife for Isaac. Why? Because through these actions she showed her kindness, generosity, and compassion for human beings and for animals.
When she responded to the needs of Abraham’s servant and the camels, she didn’t wait a minute; she ran and quickly performed acts of lovingkindess.
This attitude resonates with a story of another important character of the Torah. Can you identify him? I’m referring to Abraham. In last week’s parasha, we were told that there were three men standing near Abraham and he ran and hurried to greet, feed, and welcome the strangers (Bereshit 18:6-7).
Rebecca, like Abraham, was committed to a life of deeds of lovingkindness.
Besides this, there is another example of their similar attributes. When Abraham’s servant asked Rebecca if she would like to go to Canaan and marry Isaac, she simply answered, “I will go” (Bereshit 24:58). Her firm answer is a clear echo of God’s call to Abraham “Lech Lecha,” “Go forth” (Bereshit 12:1). Like Abraham, Rebecca embarked on a long journey to the land of Israel. Like Abraham, she left her family to start a new chapter in her life in a new place with different customs, in order to fulfill a special mission.
These similarities in Abraham and Rebecca’s lives show us that it was Rebecca, rather than Isaac, who forwarded some aspects of Abraham’s legacy. She continued his kindness and hospitality and we will see later in her story that she would be the person who would determine the course of the history of the people of Israel. Isaac was blind, physically and spiritually. He couldn’t envision the future of the people of Israel as Rebecca did.
Rebecca was worthy of continuing Abraham’s legacy because of her kindness and hospitality. She became Abraham’s ethical and spiritual heir.
It is written in the Talmud, “King David said: There are three distinguishing marks of this nation, the Jewish people. They are merciful, they are shamefaced, and they perform acts of kindness. Whoever has these three distinguishing marks is fit to cleave to this nation.” (Talmud Bavli Masechet Yebamot 79a)
These qualities of Abraham and Rebecca were passed on to their descendants for generations.
May we be able to follow Abraham and Rebecca’s examples and be kind, compassionate, and hospitable with our neighbors. Let’s continue their legacy.