Friday, November 18, 2011

Matriarch Power

Chayeii Sarah

22 Cheshvan 5772
Nov. 18 – 19, 2011

So [Rebecca] took her veil and covered herself.” -- Genesis 24:65

In Chayeii Sarah, we read that Abraham sends his servant to go and find a wife for Isaac (the precursor to JDating). The servant decides that the first woman to offer both him and his camels water to drink once reaching his destination (Abraham specifically instructed that Isaac’s wife come from his old neighborhood, which was a bit of a trek) will be the woman designated by God for Isaac.

Lo and behold, Rebecca greets the servant upon seeing him, and the first thing she does is draw water for both him and his camels. A match!

Rebecca agrees to return with the servant in order to marry Isaac. Upon seeing Isaac from afar, she covers herself, as shared in the verse above. The ancient rabbis understood this as a sign of modesty – traditionally viewed as an essential Jewish value. Isaac and Rebecca meet, and Isaac quickly takes her back to Sarah’s tent (which is now vacant, as Sarah dies at the beginning of the portion), where they consummate their marriage. Jewish brides have been covering their faces with a veil on their wedding days since.

Without question, Rebecca is unique, and we can learn from her actions.

* Rebecca was generous and hospitable to the servant – a complete stranger.

In what ways are we generous and hospitable to those we know? When folks we’re entertaining enter our homes, do we reflexively offer them something to drink? Do we offer to take their coats and ask them to make themselves at home? Do we support our friends when they ask us to show up for them, be it at a recital or charity function?

How are we generous to those we do not know? Rebecca sets a clear example of being an ambassador of kindness to a complete stranger. Are we being generous enough with our charitable contributions? Water, which Rebecca draws from the well, is a tangible object. Rather than donating simply dollars, can we donate tangible objects to help improve the lives of others? From canned goods to used cars, there are bountiful opportunities to be generous to strangers. Can a simple hello and a smile to a complete stranger (noting of course the need for personal safety) be an action we make a regular part of our lives?

* Rebecca was willing to take a chance on love.

Are we open to the power of love? Are we so picky and concerned with checking off hypothetical boxes on an imaginary (real?) checklist that we miss out on amazing relationships with wonderful people? Are we so concerned with self-fulfillment that the ability simply doesn’t exist to put the needs of another before our own?

A good female friend of mine recently was asked to take a gent new to town out for an evening. Her grandmother knew his grandmother, or something along those lines, and he did not know anyone in the neighborhood. Out of the kindness of her heart, she showed him around the neighborhood one night. A few months later, they were engaged.

Are you open to meeting someone in a completely unexpected way?

If you have already met someone, do you think about potential awesome introductions for your friends?

* Rebecca wanted her first meaningful interaction with her husband-to-be to be one not based on her physical appearance.

The hyper-sexualization of Western culture, and in particular, the fanaticism associated with being skinny and meeting society’s definition of beauty, has resulted in an unhealthy focus on one’s external physical appearance. Body image issues plague a large number of people in our society, and particularly troubling is the reality that most of the models we see on magazine covers, whom we are told symbolize “beauty” and “sexuality,” have been airbrushed using modern technology to appear skinnier. By covering her face upon seeing Isaac approaching from afar prior to their first encounter, Rebecca ensured that Isaac would not be able to judge her by an initial glance.

“Hotness” fades – we know this. In your senior years, you’re going to want to be with someone you have the ability to have meaningful conversations with, and whom you enjoy spending time with. While initial sparks are key to igniting any relationship, be conscious to not focus solely on your potential partner’s external features.

* Rebecca was modest.

Many of us are used to being told how special we are by numerous people and cannot help but internalize such sentiments. Are we modest enough in our daily lives? Do we strike a healthy balance between self-confidence and the humility needed to self-reflect and improve?

In the week(s) ahead, strive to emulate Rebecca when possible. Be open and generous with strangers and friends alike. Be willing to take a chance on love, and if you’ve already found love, seek to help others find their match. Recognize the fallacy of judging others based solely on their physical appearance, and strive to get to know people on a deeper level. Finally, recognize that while you are indeed special, and that the world was created just for you, in the end, you are but dust and ashes, and without question have the ability to improve as a human being.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, Rabbi Dan! I especially like the lesson on how we should remember to be generous to those we do not know through tzedakah and tangible goods, but we also must not forget to be hospitable to those who are already in our lives. Have a good shabbos!