A well-dressed stranger shows up at your home with an entourage, and several expensive cars. After a short, polite exchange and some gift giving, he asks that you marry his boss’s son who lives in a country you’ve never seen. Your father and brother quickly approve, and within hours you leave with the stranger…
It actually went like this:
“And Abraham was old and content …” “and he sent his servant to find a wife for his son”. The servant and the beautiful shepherdess meet at the well. She exhibits a level of kindness that exceeds the servant’s hopes and prayers. After a brief conversation with her family and the exchange of some gifts – off they go!
We understand why Rivka was a suitable bride for Isaac. Her kindness reached a level previously undemonstrated. She didn’t simply satisfy the immediate needs of the entourage she greeted, but gave them enough water to enable them to continue for a long, future journey. Her actions are considered: “Absolute Kindness” or “Kindness Embedded in Truth”. Thus Rivka displayed her worthiness to be the bride of Isaac and join the house of Abraham – the paradigm of kindness.
The question is: How did she know that Isaac was the right guy for her?
Or to rephrase the question: Why did she go? How could she go?
Could it be that her father’s and brother’s words: “From the Almighty it was decreed” put it over the top? Was it the jewelry?
There’s nothing in the text that gives an indication of her reasoning to leave all that she knew…
Our sages provide direction with their comment that: “The redemption from Egypt – and all future redemptions – are captured in, and inspired by the actions of Rivka!” Emancipations, freedom movements, and nation building are all to be traced back to the actions of this young woman.
I believe the answer to our question becomes apparent by looking at the unusually detailed descriptions of the events in Rivka’s life – she being the most written about – by far – of all of our matriarchs.
Her life as a matriarch begins with the words “vatakom” “and she stood” a term that suggests a dramatic and life changing effort that would greatly impact her – shaping her destiny, and impacting the destiny of humanity.
In order to understand Rivka’s actions we overwrote the verses relating to her with meta-messages:
(Genesis 24, 61) Rivka rides, walks and follows…
Having made a decision to begin her life anew, Rivka takes a step back to learn from her mentor.
(24, 64) She raises her eyes, sees and dismounts…
Having remained silent and introspective, she begins to understand the extent of her new adventure and move forward on her own.
(24, 65) She veils herself.
All personal journeys begin with silence, humility, and personal dignity.
(24, 67) She becomes a wife – and in a certain sense, a mother – to her husband.
Although just beginning her own journey, Rivka becomes greater than herself harnessing the strength to help another.
(25, 21) Inability to have children.
Rivka’s dream is shattered by a catastrophic, seemingly unfixable reality.
(25, 22) She demands of her Creator, that she be made clear on her purpose in lieu of her barrenness.
One who challenges life with boldness and belief, earns the right to demand answers.
(25, 25) Babies whom would become diverse and great nations.
A courageous person will plant seeds that don’t always follow the script she/he imagined.
(25, 28) “…and Rivka loved Jacob…”
Challenges become more complex as life progresses – and most complex for those who demand the most from life.
(26, 8 ) She was saved from the kidnapping inflicted on Sarah as a result of being noticed expressing love to husband.
Life’s most important milestones are secured by expressions of love and vulnerability.
(27, 7) The difference between truthfulness and honesty.
Rivka’s risk and triumph. She teaches her son that truthfulness sometimes demands dishonesty. That truthfulness is a confrontation with an entire situation – its origins, its reality, and its direction. Jacob must stand before his father – as his brother, because at that point he was his brother and would continue to be so in order to master the world around him.
So Rivka begins with a leap of faith in G-d, life, and herself. She continues with humility and the willingness to learn – done through silence and introspection. She builds others, holds G-d and life accountable for what is due to her, and expresses love openly and with full knowledge of the risks. She also understands that in life one must always be truthful – and only by doing so – will ultimately be honest.
So why did she go? She went because she was Rivka – she couldn’t have made any other choice. She was all of the things described above. She was in fact the first pilgrim – endowed with the unshakeable qualities of character that a pilgrim must have. She was a nation builder.
Warmest regards and Shabbat Shalom,