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ב"ה

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN?

Friday, 18 November, 2022 - 7:00 am

A wealthy man was going for his evening walk when he saw two men eating grass by the roadside.
He stopped by and asked them, ‘Why are you eating grass?’
‘We don’t have any money for food,’ the men replied.
‘Oh, well, you can come with me to my house,’ instructed the man. But, sir, I have a wife and two children with me!’ ‘Bring them along!’ he replied.
Suddenly the other man asked, ‘Sir, I have a wife and six children.’ ‘Bring them as well’ replied the rich man.
As they were walking to the rich man’s house one of the poor guys said: ‘Sir you are so kind and merciful. Thank you for taking all of us with you.’
The wealthy man looked at them and replied: ‘I’m glad to do it. You’ll love my place where the grass is almost a foot tall.
In this week’s Torah Portion Chayei Sarah tells the story of how Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac.
He goes to the city of Charan (present-day Iraq) where Abraham's family remained. Arriving at the town's well, he proposes a test: the woman who comes to draw water, offers some to the traveler, and in addition gives water to his camels will be the one chosen by G-d for his master's son.
Was the test permitted? Jewish law forbids relying on "omens." It is seen as a form of magic, superstition, and paganism. A classic example would be, “A deer ran in front of me today; it is a bad omen. I am not leaving the house today.” Was this test not dangerously close to pagan practice?
Some of the commentators believe it was the wrong thing to do. But many commentators differ. The Maharal explains that Eliezer's conduct was legitimate; he sought not an omen but a sign of the woman's character.
A woman who would offer him and his camel water would pass the test. It would be obvious that she is a kind and giving person. Is this enough to establish marital harmony? There are many kind women out there, but not all of them will suit you.
Eliezer is on a mission to choose the woman who, like Sarah before her, would be the trailblazer of a new nation, a new path in the jungle of history. She and her husband, Isaac, would need to continue the Monotheistic revolution Abraham began, embracing a life of moral dedication to G-d and humanity. Does this simple test of giving water to a stranger pass the mark?
Unlike classical novels, the Torah does not bather to describe details and nuances of daily life.
Yet this story is a notable exception. The Torah notifies us in strange detail that Abraham’s servant traveled by camel. Who cares how he traveled? But not only that: we are told that he took ten camels with him on the journey!
Yet, when we examine all of these details together, we get the full picture.
Absolute, Pure, and Unadulterated Kindness
Abraham’s servant stands at a well, outside of the town.
Young Rebecca arrives, she goes down into the well, fills her pitcher, comes up, and begins to walk home. He approaches her and asks if he can sip some water from her pitcher. What would I do?
I might have said, “Here is the well, why don’t you draw water for yourself from the well?”
Or perhaps: “I already have my pitcher on my shoulder. It is filled with water, and is heavy. It is not so easy to take it down. I am on my route home already. Why don’t you ask one of the girls who didn’t fill her pitcher yet?
Or at least this: “Sure! My pleasure. Please take down the pitcher from my shoulder and offer yourself a drink!”
All this would make sense. But what did Rebecca do? To quote the Torah:
“She said, ‘Drink, my lord.’ And she hastened and lowered her pitcher to her hand, and she gave him to drink.”
If that was not enough, the story continues:
“And she finished giving him to drink, and she said, ‘I will also draw for your camels until they will have finished drinking.’"
She is so nice. She wants to irrigate his camels too. But at least now, she could have said to him: “Here, take my pitcher, go down to the well, fetch water, fill up the trough and give your camels to drink.”
What is more, as the Torah states, Eliezer's servant came with other men. She could have told him to ask one of his men to do the work. Instead, “she said, ‘I will also draw for your camels until they will have finished drinking.’" And what happens next?
“And she hastened, and she emptied her pitcher into the trough, and she ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels.”
Do you get it? After giving the servant to drink, she still has some water in the pitcher. She runs over to the trough and empties there the remainder of the water in the pitcher. But that would not suffice. So, she runs back to the well to refill her pitcher, emptying it again into the trough for the camels, then returning to the well to draw yet more water for the camels. “And she drew for all his camels.”
Here we must recall the biology of the camel, unique to all other mammals.
G-d has given the camel that strange hump for a reason. These bulges are filled with fat. That store of fat is like a spare tank of gasoline in your car trunk. When food and water become scarce, the camel extracts energy from that mound of fat. In fact, the longer a camel goes without eating or drinking, the more visibly deflated its hump becomes. But give it adequate water and food, and camel humps plump up in a matter of days.
So just how long can a camel go without water before its hump starts to slump? How long can you go without food and water? We humans can last only three to five days without any water in temperate conditions. During winters in the Sahara Desert, camels have been known to survive six or seven months without drinking!
Like the thrifty vacationer who takes full advantage of complimentary breakfast buffets at hotels, camels make the most of their liquid reward when they reach an oasis. They rehydrate faster than any other mammal in the world, able to gulp down 30 gallons (113 liters) of water in just 13 minutes. After all, the wise camel knows that the next pit stop will be a long, dry walk away.
We can, at last, appreciate what Rebecca did here. This was not just kindness; this was kindness on steroids—it was an extraordinary and astounding display of generosity and benevolence. Ten camels were given to drink. But not just given to drink: Rebecca said, "I will also draw for your camels until they will have finished drinking." She refilled the trough till all the ten camels FINISHED drinking to their full capacity; till they filled up their bodies with water, preparing for their long journey back home!
This means that Rebecca kept on running from the trough to the well, going down into the well, filling her pitcher, coming back up, running to the trough, filling it, then returning to the well to refill, until each one of the camels completed its full capacity of drinking. And she did this all by herself!
We can now appreciate why the Torah mentions that Eliezer took ten camels with him, and why it mentions three times that she filled up the trough with enough water till all the camels completed their drinking. It is also clear why the Torah points out that there was some distance between the well and the trough, thus she had to “run” from the trough back to the well.
How many times did she run back and forth? Considering she had one pitcher and had to irrigate ten camels to their full capacity, she may have run to the well and back to the trough between twenty and sixty times, until all the camels got their full share of water.
We can now appreciate the conclusion of the story:
“And the man was astonished at her, standing silent, [waiting] to know whether the Lord had caused his way to succeeding or not.” He was not just impressed; he was astonished; he was blown away. Who observes such a level of kindness?! Such a generous, undiluted form of giving?
We can now understand why the Torah connects the two points. When the camels had finished drinking, Eliezer gave her the jewelry. He understood that this was not just a nice girl; this was something special, of a different order.
And it was not over. When he asks her if she has a place in her home for him to stay the night, she responds, that she has not only room for him to stay, but also plenty of straw and food for all the camels and the people!
Why did Rebecca not ask Eliezer or his men to fill the trough with her pitcher of water?
Perhaps she observed that Eliezer and his escorts were too exhausted from a long voyage. Perhaps they looked weak, hungry, and drained.
And it was at this moment that Abraham’s servant saw all he needed to see. He saw a heart so full of grace, love, affection, kindness, generosity, giving, open-handedness, and big-heartedness. When was the last time he saw such kindness? By his master Abraham. We all recall from last week’s portion, how Abraham did not only invite three guests to his home but that he “ran to them.” And then “he ran to the ox and hastened to prepare it.” This was the kindness of a different caliber.
There are many people who do kind deeds. But they are often calculated. How much? For how long? Under which circumstances? To what point? How do I know I am not being used?
If Rebecca might have consulted a therapist first, he might have told her: You need to create boundaries! Don’t allow yourself to be used like that.
Thank G-d Rebecca did not go first to a therapist. None of us would be here today!
Rebecca was full of self-esteem. She knew herself and her abilities. But Rebecca was a “Jewish girl,” destined to become the mother of Klal Yisrael, of the Jewish people. And the foundation of the Jewish people is pure, unadulterated, and unlimited kindness and love. Rebecca felt that the greatest gift in life is to help others. Without expectation, without calculation, without meditations.
Some people might call Rebecca naive, too innocent. But she was not naïve at all—as we can see from the continuation of her story. She was savvy as they come.  Let me share with you a story.
Dariush Massachi —a Persian Jew — was born in Shiraz in 1926. At the time, Shiraz had a strong Jewish community and Jews enjoyed economic and religious freedom.
In 1951, Dariush was introduced to Pari Zahabian, his future wife.
Pari came from a family of goldsmiths. And although she was only 15, her parents were interested in finding her a good and stable husband — and Dariush fit the mold.
They married and over the next 20 years were blessed with eight children. Dariush worked hard as a goldsmith and with the help of Hashem was able to provide for his family.
Everything changed with the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
As he spoke only Farsi, and was trained only as a goldsmith, Dariush was hesitant to move his family from Shiraz. But finally, in the early 1990s, Dariush realized that there was no future for his family in Iran. The ability to freely practice Judaism was worth more than all the gold in the world to Dariush.
So, in early 1991, Dariush liquidated all of his assets. And then, in the total darkness of a moonless night, Dariush and his family climbed into an unmarked station wagon and, after paying off many officials, crossed the border into Turkey and from there made their way to the United States. They settled in New Jersey and went about raising a Torah family.
Dariush was 65 years old when he fled Iran. In America, he spent a good part of his day studying Torah and he was thrilled to be able to guarantee his children an authentic Jewish life. Pari mastered English and eventually became a medical assistant.
A few months ago, in April 2017, Dariush, already past his 91st birthday, was required to undergo a serious medical procedure in the hospital.
Due to his age, the procedure required full anesthesia, and the family was worried about their revered husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
On the day of the procedure, the family sat in the waiting room saying Tehillim. More remarkably, without ever discussing it with each other or with Dariush, every single one of them — including 81-year-old Pari — independently decided to fast and pray until they knew all was well.
The procedure began early in the morning. Finally, in the afternoon, Dariush was wheeled out of the OR and into recovery. As soon as he woke up, Dariush attempted to communicate with the nurse.
In his semi-conscious state, and with his broken English, the nurse was having trouble understanding him.
Listening carefully, she heard him say, “Lunch… I need lunch.”
The nurse could not understand why this man who had just undergone a procedure and was still groggy would be thinking of lunch; wouldn’t he want to see his family first?
“I’m sorry, Mr. Massachi, but you are not permitted to eat for another six hours.”
Again, Dariush insisted, “Lunch, please, bring me lunch.”
As the nurse began to explain again, Dariush noticed his wife had entered the recovery room.
“Lunch, please bring my wife lunch… she has not eaten the whole day…”
“How do you know your wife hasn’t eaten?”
Dariush looked at his wife before answering the nurse’s question, and he thought about the almost 70 years they’d lived together, and all the hardships endured together.
Then he quietly responded, “When you have loved and lived with someone as long as I have, you just know… words are no longer needed. She has not eaten. Please bring her lunch.”
As Pari gazed at her husband, the nurse went to get lunch.
Dariush was right. No more words were needed.
 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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