Parshat Chayei Sara

In this week’s Parsha, Eliezer, Avraham’s servant, is sent to find a bride for Yitzchak and comes back with Rivka. If we examine the first meeting between Yitzchak and Rivka we can gain a tremendous amount of insight into their lives and take important messages for our lives.

“And Yitzchak went forth to pray in the fields towards evening, and he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, camels were approaching. And Rivka lifted her eyes, and saw Yitzchak, and (vitipol) she let herself down from the camel. And she said to the servant ‘Who is that man walking in the fields towards us?’ And the servant said, ‘He is my master.’ And she took the veil and covered herself. “(Bereshies 24:63-65). We have to figure out what exactly happened. Why did Rivka seem to get off the camel before she knew who was approaching her? Also, the word vitipol literally means ‘and she fell,’ so did she fall of get off? Lastly, why does she cover herself with a veil?

Rashi quotes the Midrash: “She [Rivka] saw his majestic appearance, and she was astounded by him,” so even without knowing who exactly it was, she got off her camel for respect. The Netziv (Rav Naftali Zvi Berlin 1816-1893) offers an alternative explanation and teaches a fundamental lesson about relationships between people.

The Netziv (24:64-66) explains that the sudden sight of Yitzchak, clothed in his spirituality, praying (mincha), and she saw his intensity, and it knocked her off her camel. She had a fear and trembling of this person. She covered herself with her veil because of the tremendous fear she had and she felt embarrassed; she did not feel worthy of marrying such a holy man. In Rivka’s initial meeting with Yitzchak she lost her composure and self-confidence. She wasn’t only speechless, but she wasn’t able to descend from the camel; she fell off (as the literal reading of the text states.

With this, the Netziv explains the future relationship between Rivka and Yitzchak. Rivka was not a particularly timid it passive person. She decided to uproot herself from her family to follow a servant to an unknown husband. When she has problems in pregnancy, she goes herself to question God (25:22), rather than complain to her husband ( as we will see Rachel do 30:1). Most importantly, when she thinks her husband is making a mistake in choosing Eisav rather than Yaakov, she does not hesitate to deceive him to ensure that Yaakov gets the branchos. The Netziv wonders why does she not simply tell Yitzchak directly that he is wrong and prevent him from making a mistake by blessing Yaakov? Why does she use deception when dealing with her own husband? The Netziv answers that first impressions leave powerful results. After Rivka met Yitzchak the way she did, in any direct confrontation with him she was overwhelmed. She was not accepting his superiority, in fact, she is quite sure that she knows better than he does.

However, when she would need to address him, Rivka returns to the feelings if fear and trembling from their first meeting. She has to work behind his back, not hesitating to manipulate him, but unable to directly confront him. (The only time the Torah quotes a direct statement made by Rivka to Yitzchak is when she makes up a reason Yaakov to run away to Padan Aram (27:46) and the Rashbam says even this was difficult. Rav Sorotzkin, in his commentary Oznayik LaTorah, explains that this is hinted to in the small letter kuf in the word ‘katzi’ with which Rivka begins her statement to Yitzchak. Even this one recorded statement was made with great difficulty.)

We see that the inability to communicate properly caused many difficulties between Rivka and Yitzchak, and eventually between Yaakov and Eisav. They were not able to work together like the other Avos and imahot. This is not to put blame on either Yitzchak or Rivka, because this was an emotional barrier, and it is hard to understand someone else’s deep emotions, but this is to let us gain an appreciation for the sensitivity we need to have towards others and the importance of proper communication in relationships.

In fact the first communication crisis took place very early on in history. “Kayin spoke to
his brother Hevel; while they were in the field Kayin rose upon Hevel his brother and killed him” (Bereshis 4:8). The text does not say anything about what was said. The Midrash and the commentators try to fill in what exactly happened. Still if we need to see it we can understand anything from the text as is. Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger suggested: “The fact that Torah does not record what Kayin said to Hevel precisely reflects the fact that indeed, he said nothing to him. And that is the whole point of the story. When communication between people breaks down, when people stop talking to each other, anything could result, even, God forbid, murder.”

Between friends and family, each person has many relationships that they are involved in at the same time. Even with the best relationship between people there are times that get stressful. Sometimes these types of events pull people apart. It does not mean they are no longer friends but they have simply moved away instead of closer to each other. Rabbi Chaim Soleveichik said that when we sense these drifts we have to say something to the other person. We are not allowed to simply move on, we have to take an active role in bringing the friendship closer together. Of course we have to act with sensitivity and not to speak in anger, with a feeling of revenge or even rebuke the other person (a separate obligation), but just to communicate with the other person what is wrong and try to resolve the issues. Communication is a crucial part of every relationship whether it be friends, family, or a significant other. Too many times relationships have been strained from a lack of communication; it is hard to fix the problem if both sides do not know what the problem is. We should all merit to be able to have healthy growing relationships with open lines of communication, and in doing so increase the amount of ahavat yisrael in the world, and see the building of the beit hamikdash may it be speedily built.

Student Studying in SFW