Parshas Chayei Sarah:
One of a Kindness
By Rabbi Nosson Lederer

We are all constantly warmed and inspired by the countless stories of people and organizations who do anonymous acts of chesed. Whether it is the slipping of an envelope under the door and making a quick get-away, or a grocer erasing credit accounts, these acts of preserving the dignity of the recipient is an attribute which is not new to Bnai Yisroel.

The Bais Halevi, ZT"L, in this weeks parsha, brings to light for us how Rivka Imeinu brilliantly balanced her act of chesed with utmost care as not to embarrass the recipient, Eliezer.

When asked to give Eliezer a drink she was faced with a dilemma. Eliezer had asked, “Please give me some water to drink from your pitcher.” (Beraishis 24:17) Could she then carry the rest of this water, which might have been contaminated by a stranger, back to her house?

To solve this problem, she decided that she would spill the leftover water in her pitcher into the trough of the camels, as it says “And she hurried and she emptied her pitcher into the trough." (24:20) She realized, though, that giving her leftover water to the camels might cause Eliezer embarrassment, so she handled the situation with sensitivity by initially saying, “I will also draw for your camels until they will finish drinking.” (24:19)

Through this statement Eliezer would then understand that the purpose of her emptying the pitcher into the trough was not because she was suspicious of him, but rather, because she wanted to feed the camels. This way any embarrassing feelings Eliezer might have would be allayed.

In this episode, Rivka Imeinu combined her outstanding middah of chesed with great brilliance in order to save the recipient of her act, a total stranger she had never seen before, even the slightest bit of embarrassment.

Looking at it from a more halachic standpoint, the Bais Halevi, in Parshas Terumah, says that a poor man, at the time of his accepting tzedaka, is considered a cheftza shel mitzvah, an object of mitzvah, just like an esrog on Succos, which may not be disgraced. (Shabbos 22a)

Let us hope that we can always emulate this beautiful harmony of kindness and thoughtfulness which gives us just another reason to say "Umi k'amcha yisroel goi echad ba’aretz, who is like your people Israel, one nation in the land.”

Parsha Encounters is coordinated by Rabbi Moshe Menachem Liberman and edited by Barbara Horwitz. Published on the Internet by Yisroel Leichtman of L&A Computer Services

Rabbi Nosson Lederer, a rebbe at Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi, is a member of the Zichron Aharon Mechanchim Kollel at the Chicago Community Kollel.



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