D’var Torah: Jessica Weinfeld ’19 (Chayei Sarah)

Have you ever wondered how we can learn from the Torah? After all, the events in the Torah took place thousands of years ago. One way we can learn from the Torah is by looking at the qualities displayed by the people in these ancient stories. The people in Chayei Sarah illustrate qualities like trust and faith, diligence, hospitality, and bravery. These qualities are essential to have meaningful lives today.

Avraham displays trust in his servant when he sends his servant to find a wife for his son. This mission is immensely important to Avraham, and he would only send a trusted friend to accomplish it. Although people do not send friends with trains of ten camels trekking across the desert to find wives for their sons today, trust in one’s friends is absolutely essential in this day and age. I always take comfort in knowing I can completely trust and confide in my friends.

Avraham and his servant display enormous faith in G-d. When the servant questions whether a woman will come away with him, Avraham show faith in G-d by saying

יִשְׁלַ֤ח מַלְאָכוֹ֙ לְפָנֶ֔יךָ וְלָקַחְתָּ֥ אִשָּׁ֛ה לִבְנִ֖י מִשָּֽׁם׃

“He (G-d) will send his angel before you, and you will get a wife for my son from there.”

Avraham’s servant likewise displays his trust in G-d when he prays to G-d to reveal the woman G-d has chosen for Yitzchak. In this day and age of scientific discovery and discussion, it is easy for some people to lose faith in one’s religion because religion cannot be proven by science. Because I admire their loyalty and faith, Avraham and his servant inspire me to have faith in G-d.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Rebekah illustrates another important personal characteristic highlighted in this parasha, that of extreme diligence.  A thirsty camel can drink 30 gallons of water. Multiply this by 10 camels and you get 300 gallons of water that Rivka drew for the camels. BY HERSELF. Furthermore, as Nehama Leibowitz points out, it says in Bereshit perek כד  passuk

כ: “ וַתְּמַהֵ֗ר וַתְּעַ֤ר כַּדָּהּ֙ אֶל־הַשֹּׁ֔קֶת וַתָּ֥רָץ ע֛וֹד אֶֽל־הַבְּאֵ֖ר לִשְׁאֹ֑ב וַתִּשְׁאַ֖ב לְכָל־גְּמַלָּֽיו׃”

“Quickly emptying her jar into the trough, she hurried and ran back to the well to draw the water. . . “

Rivka “ran back” meaning that the well was a distance away from the trough, meaning that Rivka would have had to work very hard to give water to all of the camels.  This description highlights how hard-working she really was.

In addition, Rabbi Shai Held points out in his book Heart of Torah important parallels between Rivka and Abraham.  Just as Rivka “hurried and ran,” Abraham also “hurried and ran” when he welcomed the three strangers who told his about the birth of his son Yitzchak. In our day and age, diligence and hard work are valuable, especially when it comes to school and work. My parents are very diligent and they have shown me by example that diligence is an important quality. I always try to work hard in my life.   

Rebekah’s hospitality is also displayed by her offering Avraham’s servant, a near stranger, shelter and food for the night. This sort of hospitality, bruchim habaim, “welcoming those who come” and hachnasat orchim “bringing in guests,” is very important in Jewish values, and is another parallel between Rebecca and Abraham, who welcomed the three strangers who told him that Yitzchak would be born.  In my family, we often have guests over for Shabbat dinner, and I always try to make guests feel welcome.

Rebekah also displays bravery by her willingness to move away from her family and marry a stranger. Bravery is an important quality to have in life. If I did not possess this bravery, I doubt I would be able to stand here and deliver this dvar Torah! Speaking in front of large groups, such as the one assembled here today, has always been a source of considerable anxiety for me. But today, I have overcome that fear.

From the Torah times until today, trust and faith, diligence, hospitality, and bravery are key qualities we all need to have a meaningful life. These qualities are highlighted in Chayei Sarah, and they are important qualities to me.

Shabbat Shalom!

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