Camel Commotion: Parshat Chayei Sarah
Based on a Naaleh.com class by Mrs, Shira Smiles
The Torah relates the initial meeting of Yitzchak and Rivka in inverse parallel structure. Rivka was coming from her father's home in Charan. Yitzchak was coming from Be'er Lachai Roee. Both were on the road. Neither was in a defined place. The Torah states that Yitzchak went out towards evening to talk to God in the field. He raised his eyes and noticed camels coming. Rivka also raised her eyes, beheld Yitzchak, and fell from her camel. She asked Eliezer, "Who is this man walking in the field towards us?" Eliezer answered, "He is my master." She then took the veil and covered herself. The commentators explain these verses as the preparations our ancestors made for finding their match and for beginning to forge the life of a Jewish family.
Yitzchak was forty years old. He knew he was ready for marriage.Vayovenu Bamikrah interprets his journey as his personal effort in the quest for a wife. He knew he could not marry a girl from Canaan and that he was prohibited from leaving the holy land. These two elements made it impossible for him to search for a bride. Even though Avraham had sent Eliezer back to the old country to find a match, there was no guarantee of success. So Yitzchak was involving himself in the mitzvah of making matches in the hopes that he too would merit his own mate. He went to Be'er Lachai Roee to bring Hagar, who had done teshuva, back to Avraham.
Yitzchak established the Mincha afternoon prayer. It is in the afternoon, says Rav Reiss, when we are heavily enmeshed in the concerns of daily work that we may easily forget that everything is dependent on the will of Hashem. Certainly, finding an appropriate spouse is subject to His will. But there is a much deeper mystical connection. Rav Avigdor Parness in Lev Tahor takes us back to the time of creation again. He references each hour of the sixth day and how Hashem created Adam and Chava. By the ninth hour, they were already complete and were commanded not to eat from the eitz hadaat. In the tenth hour, Chava and Adam transgressed that one commandment and ate of the fruit. That hour when the Creator went out into the field symbolically searching for Adam and asking him rhetorically "Ayekah, where are you," was the same hour of the day that Yitzchak went out into the field to reconnect with his Maker and rectify the sin of Adam. But to do so completely, he also needed his ezer kenegdo to represent Chava.
Rav Moshe Bick notes that when Yitzchak davened Mincha, he not only davened for his ezer kenegdo (helpmate), but for all of Klal Yisroel. He saw all of Jewish history before his eyes till the time of Moshiach. He knew that one of the signs that Moshiach is thatchutzpah (impudence) will increase. He also knew that it would be a time fraught with death and destruction. Yitzchak used his self -nullification in prayer to counter this arrogance and try to prevent the massive destruction. When he saw the gemalim, the camels, he saw it as a sign of redemption, for it echoes Hashem's promise that although his descendants will go down to Egypt, "Gam aloh aaleh, I will also bring them up again."
Chessed will also play a critical role in ushering in the redemption. When Yitzchak saw Rivka on the gemalim, especially after Eliezer related how Rivka gave him and all the camels enough water to drink, he knew that Hashem had sent him his destined mate to complete his mission. When Rivka saw Yitzchak approaching, she was overwhelmed by the aura surrounding him, and she either fell off her camel in awe or slid off in respect. Perhaps, as Meor Vashemesh suggests, she fell figuratively. She must have known she was on a higher spiritual level than her father and brothers. But now she was witnessing true greatness. She reassessed her own worth and her stature fell in her own eyes. But she decided to grow and do teshuvah, and so she took her veil and covered herself in modesty and determination.
The Belzer Rebbe explains that Rivka understood that her contribution to the household would be the attribute of chesed, kindness. But the aura of Yitzchak's gevurah was so strong, that Rivka worried it would overwhelm her chessed and she would not be an appropriate helpmate. To this Eliezer answered, "He is my master," he has grown up in the home of my master Avraham whose defining characteristic was also chessed and he carries some of this within himself as well. As Rabbi Dovid Cohen points out, Eliezer reassured Rivka that they would balance each other out. In the same vein, we too must strive to achieve equilibrium between the attributes of chessed and gevurah within us.
Although Yitzchak and Rivka were extremely different, they shared a common goal. Their differences served to complement each other and teach us how we can be inspired to grow and use each of our middot to build the world Hashem meant us to build.