Vegam gemalecha ashke – and also your camels I will water (Beresheis/Genesis 24:14). Gam ligmalecha eshav ad im kilu lishtos – also for your camels I will draw until they finish drinking (Beresheis/Genesis 24:19). The typical English translations make these two phrases, the first by Eliezer and the second by Rivkah, seem more similar than they are.
This coming Shabbos we read Parshas Chayei Sarah and are saddened to learn that Sarah dies. Next. Avraham purchases a burial site for his wife and family and Eliezer searches for a wife for Yitzchak. After that, Avraham gets remarried. Then the Torah tells about his death and the death of Ishmael.
Consider what Avraham knows about humanity. G-d brought the flood because the world was filled with robbery and sexual immorality. He was alive at the time of the Dispersion after the Tower of Bavel when people challenged G-d’s authority. After she gave birth to a child, Hagar mocked his beloved wife Sarah for being barren. Efron the Hittite grossly overcharged Avraham for a burial site, while he was grieving over Sarah’s death. Perhaps he had heard about the murder of Abel by Cain. Not a pretty picture. Is it any wonder that he gives his servant Eliezer very specific instructions about the proper wife for Yitzchak?
Notice the characteristic for which Eliezer is searching. First the young woman must offer to alleviate his thirst, then that of his camels. While deep sensitivity to animal welfare is not necessarily indicative of a similar attitude toward humans, someone who is responsive to the needs of a stranger and then even his animals is a paragon of kindness.
Don Yitzchak Abarbanel points out another quality of Rivkah that we can learn from how Eliezer framed his request to G-d and how Rivkah actually behaved. While he asked that the young woman who was worthy of being Yitzchak’s bride offer to water his camels, Rivkah was careful to say she would draw water for his camels, implying that she could not be sure they would drink. Her punctilious honesty, living as she did with Lavan who later we learn was one of the great prevaricators in history, shows her dedication to honesty and the strength of her character.
A student of the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Shmuel Walkin gives the example of Rabbi Rafael of Bershid, disciple of Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz, who when asked if it was still raining outside when he came into his house would answer, “When I was outside it was raining.” He did not want to state it was still raining when it could have stopped after he came into the house.
Such meticulous attention to the truth in so small a matter should help us resist the temptation to lie in bigger matters.
Question – Do think it is ever okay to lie? Please leave a comment below.