June 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

There is performing chesed (kindness) and then there is performing extraordinary chesed. The following story is told by Rabbi Yoel Gold about a family in Eretz Yisrael who were driving up north. One of the children needed a restroom, so the father pulled up to a restaurant and asked a waitress if their child could use the restroom. “Sure, no problem,” she said. Shortly thereafter, the owner saw the child exit the restroom and started shouting, “Who let this child use the bathroom? This isn’t a gas station; this is a fancy restaurant!” The father realized the waitress would now be in big trouble for being nice to his child. He said to the owner, “I apologize, but I don’t think you realize that we are here to eat a meal in your restaurant. The rest of my family is coming in now. Can you please seat us at a table for ten?” The owner apologized profusely, and the waitress sat the father with his wife and their eight children at a table. The family was stunned, as they had never eaten inside a fancy restaurant and were not accustomed to eating out. When the family finished eating, all the waiters and waitresses walked over to their table and presented them with a big cake for dessert. “This is a gift to you as a token of thanks.” Our heroine waitress was crying and said, “I saw what you did and how you spent so much money just to save my job. I never realized the sensitivity and caring of an observant Jew.”

When we learn about the Avos (patriarchs) and Imahos (matriarchs) we are similarly introduced to a new level of chesed. Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, was given the mission to find the most suitable wife for Yitzchak. He davened and asked Hashem that the girl who would give him water to drink and also offer to draw water for his camels would be the match for Yitzchak. Rashi explains that this would demonstrate that she is a gomeles chesed—that she has a true caring nature and is suitable to belong in the home of Avraham Avinu.

Now, what was so extraordinary about offering a drink to Eliezer and his camels? The commentaries are replete with explanations of the nuances of chesed that are inferred from the wording of the verses.

Rabbi Yosef Dov Haleivi Solovetchik notes Eliezer asked Rivka to allow him to drink directly from the pitcher. Eliezer was testing to see if she was both generous and wise in providing her chesed. Although this would now prevent anyone else from drinking from the pitcher, Rivka obliged. She now faced a dilemma—what to do with the remaining water in the pitcher! If she spilled it out, that would be embarrassing to Eliezer. Instead, Rivka gave it to the camels, displaying wisdom and sensitivity. Further, she offered to draw more water from the well for the camels, so that pouring the remains of the pitcher for the camels would not imply that she was doing so because Eliezer drank from the pitcher.

The Ohr Hachaim notes another facet of Rivka’s chesed: her sensitivity to the recipient. Rivka only offered to draw additional water for the camels after Eliezer had completely finished drinking. Why not offer it immediately? Simply, this might make Eliezer feel pressured to drink quickly, as Rivka would be waiting for him to finish in order to take the pitcher back to the well to refill for the camels. Her chesed was clothed in sensitivity from all angles.

Rabbi Eliyahu Boruch Finkel highlights an additional dimension to Rivka’s act of kindness. Eliezer had asked Rivka to pour the water from the pitcher directly into his mouth. Rivka, who was very young, had to stand on her tiptoes to reach Eliezer. Additionally, Eliezer had ten servants who accompanied him who could have easily drawn the water. The fact that Rivka jumped at the request, even one that seemed unnecessary, demonstrated that Rivka looked for opportunities to help people and not for reasons to excuse herself.

Such heightened sensitivity and desire to help people are hallmark signs that Rivka would become a matriarch of klal Yisrael.

The Avos and Imahos imprinted this quality in their DNA, which runs through our own spiritual veins to this day. May these lessons serve as models for us on how we should perform acts of kindness whenever possible.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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