Following Sarah's burial after the binding of Isaac, Abraham realized that he needed to find a wife for their son. After all, if Isaac had been sacrificed, Abraham would have no descendants! (Rashi on Gen. 22:20). Therefore Abraham sent his servant, Eliezer to seek a suitable mate for Isaac among Abraham's relatives in Aram Naharaim. Upon his arrival, Eliezer prayed to G‑d that he be shown specific signs of acts of kindness performed by Isaac's destined mate to distinguish her from other girls. Why did he not prefer a different manner of measuring her eligibility to marry Isaac? The foundation of holiness is to give to others…

The Alter Rebbe explains the difference between holiness - in Hebrew, "kedusha" - and its opposite - "kelipa". The foundation of holiness is to give to others: to give the spirit of life to the lowly beings, to constantly give existence and life ex nihilo. On the other hand, the side opposite holiness solely seeks to receive without giving. It shouts "Give, give!" as the verse states: "The leech has two daughters, 'Give' and 'Give...'" (Proverbs 30:15). Therefore Eliezer tested Rebecca in this particular realm. When she herself volunteered, "I also will give drink to your camels", he saw this as a sign of her holiness and therefore fitting to marry Abraham's offspring.

I once heard why Eliezer was sent to look for Isaac's bride from among Abraham's relatives, as opposed to a local Canaanite girl. Despite the fact that both groups of people were idol worshippers, there was an intrinsic difference. The daughters of Canaan had truly evil character traits; Abraham's relatives had negative outlooks. In comparison, the former is much more detrimental because it is nearly impossible to alter an ingrained character trait. A bad belief system may also be hard to change, but not as hard as a character trait. Knowing this, Abraham sent Eliezer much farther away in his search, but as seen in the results, Rebecca was truly righteous in all aspects.

The Kli Yakar writes that when Eliezer brought Rebecca back to Abraham, they encountered Isaac praying in the field nearby. The Sages say that the three daily prayers were established by the three forefathers: the Morning Prayer - Abraham, the Afternoon Prayer - Isaac, and the Evening Prayer - Jacob. So when Rebecca and Eliezer saw Isaac, he was praying the Afternoon Prayer. What is interesting in this is that upon completing his prayers, Isaac raised his eyes, and saw that he had immediately been answered. He had prayed to find his wife-to-be, and here she was. We do not find this immediate response to prayer with either of the other two forefathers. From this we learn that for us too, the Afternoon Prayer has a special quality for receiving quick divine response. Righteous women are compared to the orb of the sun…

The Kli Yakar adds another idea about the fact that Isaac prayed specifically just prior to sunset, which was immediately followed by Rebecca's arrival. This teaches us that the "sun" of Sarah did not set until the "sun" of Rebecca began to rise. This was in order that there should not be a lack of righteous women in the world, as righteous women are compared to the orb of the sun.

The beginning of the parasha tells of the death and burial of our matriarch Sarah, and how Abraham purchased the cave of Machpela in Hebron for her burial. "And after this, Abraham buried Sarah, his wife, in the cave of the field of Machpela". (Gen. 23:19) Hebron and the cave of Machpela have been controversial for centuries, and the controversy continues till today, as the media reminds us. What amazes me is the false impression given by newspapers here and abroad. Anyone who visits Hebron will tell you, Hebron is an alive, small, but thriving, Jewish community, with real people living there in a day to day struggle to protect one of the holiest sites in our tradition from being abandoned. The people of Hebron make me proud to be Jewish and live in Israel. I am not sure I could live there, but when I visited I came away certain that it is a community that must be supported by any means possible.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul


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