Effort and Reward
In this week’s parsha, Avraham sends his trusted servant Eliezer to find a righteous woman to marry Avraham’s son, Yitzchak.
There was a lot of pressure on Eliezer to get this right, as the next generation of the just-beginning Jewish people would be brought about through this woman. Whoever she would be, she would have to be extraordinary and embody the values of outreach and kindness that Avraham and Sarah had perpetuated.
Approaching the communal well in the town of Charan, Eliezer creates his own test to find the right person based on that person’s chesed, kindness – it will be a woman who offers to give water to not only him, which would simply be common courtesy, but who also offers to give water to his camels, going the extra mile in thoughtfulness and generosity.
Soon, Rivkah appears and approaches the well.
The verse says that the water “rises up,” as if to greet her, as she draws water for herself. Commentators have traditionally understood this miracle as a reward for Rivkah’s general righteousness.
Eliezer goes to her, and she immediately passes his test, drawing water for both Eliezer and his camels. However, this time there is no mention in the פסוק of the water “rising up” to Rivkah. Why, when she is doing this wonderful act of chesed, this beautiful mitzvah for someone else’s benefit, would the miracle not occur?
R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev identifies a deep message in this sequence of event. The Berditchever teaches that, as we learn in Pirkei Avot 5:23, “According to the labor is the reward.” Sometimes the hardest things are the most important.
According to this understanding, God wanted someone as kind and deserving as Rivkah to receive the highest reward, so God arranged for her to have to strive just a bit harder in drawing the water for Eliezer and his camels, to make the mitzvah that much more meaningful due to her effort for it.
When we work hard for something, the experience means more to us. It certainly meant more to Eliezer, who saw Rivkah’s effort on his behalf and knew she would be the right woman to ask to be Yitzchak’s wife. Her one generous act paved the way for the rest of Jewish history.
Questions for the Shabbat Table:
- Describe a time when you tried harder at something than you thought you ever could, but in the end, you realized it was worth it.
- Why do you think that those things we work harder for often become more important to us? What can that teach us about our spiritual lives?