Parshat Chaye Sara: Genesis 23:1-25:18; I Kings 1:1-31.
So much is riding on a mission. Avraham sends his servant back to Aram Nahara’im to find a bride for his son Yitzhak.
Avraham wrests a promise from the servant that he won’t take Yitzhak back to Aram Nahara’im, but will, instead, find a proper bride for Yitzhak there and bring her back to Canaan. Avraham is old and isn’t able to carry out the mission himself. God has promised that Yitzhak will be the one to carry on the covenant that God first made with Avraham.
By the end of the parshah, the success of the mission comes down to just one word. The family asks Rivka, “Will you go with this man?” She responds with one word in Hebrew — Ay-laykh, “I will go.”
Think for a moment about who Rivka is and where she is going. She is leaving her home, her family and the only life she has known. It is likely that she will never return. We hear only certainty in her answer, “I will go.”
We already learned that Rivka is a strong and kind person when Avraham’s servant first meets her at the well. After seeing her fill her jar to water the camels, he asks her to give him a sip of her water. Rivka’s response is generous and energetic; she gives him water and then draws water for his 10 camels.
Let’s see — who does this sound like? A person asked to leave behind family and community in order to start life anew in a foreign land, the land of Canaan, and agrees in an instant. A person with a core of kindness and a willingness to help strangers, who runs to act on a promise of assistance. It should sound like Rivka since that is what I described above. But it should also sound like Avraham. Asked by God to go to Canaan, he immediately sets out. Seeing the three men (who turn out to be angels) coming through the desert, Avraham jumps up to welcome them in, to feed and care for them.
Professor Tikva Frymer-Kensky expresses the comparison between Rivka and Avraham this way: “Her [Rivka’s] strong will and her embrace of her destiny make her a strong, active link between Abraham and Jacob.”
Each time we read Chaye Sara, I am awed by Rivka’s, “I will go.” God’s explicit command sets Avraham off to his destiny. Rivka doesn’t have the benefit of God’s voice to go on. Instead, she senses her destiny and hears the voice of God in the very possibility of a new land and a life with Yitzhak. Her kindness makes her a worthy inheritor of God’s promise to Avraham. Her strength and determination make it all possible.
Rabbi Steven Rubenstein is rabbi of Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield.