In this week’s Parshah, we learn that Sarah dies at the age of 127 and is buried in the Machpelah Cave in Hebron, which Abraham purchases from Ephron the Hittite for 400 shekels of silver.
Abraham then sends his servant Eliezer to Charan, packed with gifts and ten camels, to find a wife for Isaac. To ensure that he would find the right woman, Eliezer came up with a plan. After his long travels, he would ask a young maiden for a sip of water, and if she offered to provide water for his camels as well, she would be the one.
Rebecca, the daughter of Abraham’s nephew Bethuel, appears at the well and passes the test with flying colours. Eliezer is invited to their home, where he repeats the story of the day’s events and it is agreed that Rebecca will return to the land of Canaan. Isaac marries Rebecca, loves her, and is comforted over the loss of his mother.
Abraham takes a new wife, Hagar, and has six more sons, but Isaac is designated as his only heir. Abraham dies at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah by his two eldest sons, Isaac and Ishmael. Incidentally, this year we also celebrate 175 years of Jewry in South Africa – so we have been here as long as Abraham was alive!
There are many teachings that can be taken out of this Parshah, but today I would like to focus on Rebecca and the qualities that she had which will guide me in my journey to becoming a compassionate and righteous man.
From the moment Eliezer requested to take a sip from her jug, Rebecca’s generosity and greatness shined through in the most discreet and humble way. Let us remember that Rebecca was a young woman of nobility, not a poor servant girl who was used to drawing water from wells yet she jumped at the opportunity to do something kind. She didn’t question or consider whether she was really needed – instead, she energetically continued filling many troughs with water until the job of watering an entire herd of thirsty camels was completed. She had one motivation and that was to show boundless loving kindness.
As I become Bar Mitzvah today, I see an opportunity to take control of my life, to be responsible and to make the right choices. Rebecca’s example teaches me to take the goal of boundless loving kindness and to act with real, selfless commitment. She teaches me to look for times and places where I can be of service and useful to others without waiting to see if there are others around who could do the same or expect anything in return. I believe that by doing random acts of kindness, I will be doing my part in Tikkun Olam – making this world a better place.
I feel privileged to be surrounded by role models who can also inspire me in my quest to be a righteous man. I need look no further than at home where my parents, who have sacrificed much, always put the needs of my sister and I in front of theirs while asking for nothing in return. My Uncle Danny is another person who I can get inspiration from. Through his organisation, Ladles of Love and his restaurant, he feeds nearly 1000 homeless people a week with no payment except for the reward of knowing that he made a difference in the lives of people less fortunate then himself.
I am also very lucky to have my grandparents close by, whose acts of kindness and compassion are a big source of inspiration to me. How lucky I am to be surrounded by strong matriarchs like Rebecca around me, who can pass their knowledge and experiences to me, so that I can in turn pass them down to my children one day.
Having the teachings of Rebecca and the example of my family in my foundation, I am confident that I will continue on this path and make a positive impact in the lives of everyone around me.