Because I am the daughter of Bethuel, I bow in humble and kind greeting to you, as we meet. It is not everyone’s custom, this kindness, but it is, indeed, the custom I have been taught, and embrace rather easily.

The word “kindness,” as you see above, or, in Hebrew, chesed, I imagine to be my emblem. If I could put a crown on this very word “kindness,” the way a crown can be atop a Hebrew letter, I would do that.

I am Rebekah, quite possibly a relation very distantly to you by blood, from the time before the Israelites, or perhaps, you and I may share another connection, not through bloodlines, but our similar heartstrings. “My age?” you ask. You are meeting me just as you would in Genesis, chapter 24, and I am a young woman. “Beautiful,” I am described, although here my face blushes easily, and further described, having no experience in the knowledge of a man, and now, much deeper blushing upon my face, to be sure.

My father’s household is in the city of Nahor, Abraham’s birth place, but I am frequently just a bit outside the city, at the well, where all of the women draw water in the evening. Although the L-rd has blessed us with all we could ask for, there is more work to be done in the day than we can complete by the setting sun. The work of our hands leaves some of the maidens with bitterness in their hearts, but I think about myself, privately, in the way my brother, Laban, and my father address one another, as “servant.” A servant in the most appealing way, with one’s dedicated heart, to a master, a king, or especially the Almighty. I partake in my work, whether caring for animals, or bringing up water, as a chance to show our G-d deep appreciation for all that we have been given. I find joy reaching for the hearts of others, and seek to earn their aff ection, as my reward. Many maidens dress themselves in jealousy, or find reasons to quarrel with one another. I try to cloak myself in the aura of any angels that may be near me, and invite them to be closer still, by showing kindnesses to my people, and my animals. Such was the day I met Eleazer.

My father’s household is in the city of Nahor, Abraham’s birth place, but I am frequently just a bit outside the city, at the well, where all of the women draw water in the evening. Although the L-rd has blessed us with all we could ask for, there is more work to be done in the day than we can complete by the setting sun. The work of our hands leaves some of the maidens with bitterness in their hearts, but I think about myself, privately, in the way my brother, Laban, and my father address one another, as “servant.” A servant in the most appealing way, with one’s dedicated heart, to a master, a king, or especially the Almighty. I partake in my work, whether caring for animals, or bringing up water, as a chance to show our G-d deep appreciation for all that we have been given. I find joy reaching for the hearts of others, and seek to earn their aff ection, as my reward. Many maidens dress themselves in jealousy, or find reasons to quarrel with one another. I try to cloak myself in the aura of any angels that may be near me, and invite them to be closer still, by showing kindnesses to my people, and my animals. Such was the day I met Eleazer.

An evening the way of any other, my jug on my shoulder, a little wilted from the day’s work, but dreaming of the feel of the cold water I would draw upon my arms and, luxuriously, a splash on my face. Lost in thought, I drew and fi lled my jar from the spring and found myself suddenly startled by the gaze of a man, a stranger leading a caravan. He asked for a drink from my jar. It is a sacred task of the women here, that we greet strangers in a most welcoming way. As we lower our jars for water to quench ourselves, and determine to share it with others, extending enthusiasm, we can practice chesed. And that is just what I chose to do with this stranger. Kindly, I inquired if I could also water his thirsty camels until they were refreshed.

Although I know my place is to be modest at all times, and to welcome strangers as if they are part of my tribe, whether or not they are of bounty, I could not keep from counting the stranger’s camels. Ten of them! This stranger had come to Nahor, not as a wanderer, but with a clear intention. I smiled at the excitement and delighted in my new task. I did not even number how many times my jar was lowered, or how many camels spat at me with their messy drinking. I hoped to hear about this man’s journey soon, and not from my brother Laban, who so often heard fi rsthand, but rather, with my own ears. I waited patiently and kept watering all ten of those weary camels.

Unexpectedly, it happened! I got to hear from the manservant himself! He inquired of me whose daughter was I? I did take a deep breath or two, perhaps even a short pause, before I answered him. I delighted for a brief second, in this place of importance, this grown-up moment, not usually reserved for a woman, much less, a very young woman. I will be the first to engage in tales of whom this man with ten camels, and other manservants,
might be! I, Rebekah, will be the teller of all that has transpired here at the well, on this day! I tried not to smile in a way that was immodest, but I am not certain I hid my expression well. I responded, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Nahor,” and added, “whom Milcah bore to him.”

This manservant was pleased with my lineage and, to my great surprise, he swiftly put a gold ring on my nose and two gold bands around my arms. He asked me if there was room in my father’s house for him and his men to spend the night. His face had warmed considerably and I almost could not speak words in all this excitement. When the moment you are living in is so unique, when you have gold on your arms and in your nose for the very first time, you may turn back into a little girl, all at once. And so I did! My chesed, my crowned word, came tumbling out quickly, literally seeping out of my pores, and flying out of my mouth, as I kindly assured the stranger of the room in our tents for his men to spend the night, and I then invited his spitting, tired camels, to enjoy our straw and feed. I remembered that even they needed kindness, following their long journey on hooves.  

And then, the moment that changed me back into a young woman, and changed my life forever. The manservant bowed low in homage to the L-rd and said: “Blessed be the L-rd, the G-d of my master Abraham, who has not withheld His steadfast faithfulness from my master. For I have been guided on my errand by the L-rd, to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” Genesis 24:26

“Blessed be the L-rd, the G-d of my master Abraham, who has not withheld His steadfast faithfulness from my master. For I have been guided on my errand by the L-rd, to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” Genesis 24:26

I abandoned my attempt at walking back as the young woman I am supposed to be, and ran instead with a full, bursting heart, to find my mother and tell my mother’s household all I could tell. I almost lost one of the gold bracelets, for my arms are not quite as rounded as a woman’s just yet. My bracelets shone like the sun and, with chin lifted high, I gave my account. My story. 

No sooner had I pronounced, “Thus the man spoke to me,” than my brother, Laban, went off to greet Abraham’s servant — and, if I may say so boldly, to greet G-d’s servant.  I felt the weight and divine intervention of his errand when he studied me. My nose tickled with a gold ring in it for the first time.

The household became joyous and hospitable in what seemed like only moments. Cakes were being formed and frankincense and olive oil were fetched to make them more flavorful. Salt and herbs were brought in the tent to flavor the stews, all for our special guest, to be as welcoming as is our tradition, all for Eleazer, the senior servant of my uncle Abraham. We encouraged Eleazer to tell us of my uncle and his household, but he was not forthcoming quite yet. The smells wafting from the fires were the scents of a feast!

More clammering; wine was found and, in a deep and compassionate gesture, the feet of the men were bathed following their sacred journey. The camels, now unloaded, kneeled to find their respite. It seemed all were ready and engaged to hear a report of Abraham, our kinsman, through his servant, and to learn the way in which he and his household were faring. Eleazer waited for the room to be still. The anticipation of the tales we were about to be a part of was palpable. We women, a good distance away, strained to hear the upcoming, precious details. Although Eleazer was encouraged to feed his tired body first, he chose to feed his soul, and began. It was apparent to all that he was a changed man for, before our very eyes, the Eternal One had directly answered the prayer Eleazer prayed from his heart. 

Eleazer conveyed how Abraham and Sarah had but one son, Isaac, born to Sarah in her old age. We learned that Abraham was a very rich man, that he has, in his possession, silver and gold, cattle and sheep, asses, and camels, male and female slaves. We learned that none of these riches are as meaningful to Abraham as his devotion to the Almighty. Abraham has assigned all of his wealth to Isaac, this only son.  The legacy to ensue would be one, not only of the riches acquired by Abraham as a reward for following G-d with sincerity, but would additionally be a legacy that would grant the divinely inspired patriarch and matriarch to further the multiplication of the people whom G-d had chosen to uphold. This is the reason Abraham secured the oath of Eleazer, to physically fetch the woman intended for this divine pairing. 

Am I to be her? I closed my eyes and waited to hear more. 

Eleazer was captivating each of us around him. He then confided his prayer request on behalf of his master Abraham’s G-d: He asked G-d to reveal the wife chosen for Isaac, at the well, where he had just arrived. He prayed fervently from his heart, that the young woman would respond in true kindness upon Eleazer, asking to quench his thirst from her jar, and, in this symbolic gesture of authentic chesed, he prayed that she would further offer to water his camels, as well. No sooner had he asked for this sign from the Almighty than Rebekah became visible with her jug on her shoulder, and her secret emblem, and her servant heart exposed immediately, just as he had requested. G-d clearly listened to Eleazer’s prayer, and responded by delivering the maiden to him. 

My kinsmen turned to gaze upon me, my destiny being revealed here and now. My face shone as I imagined myself a wife, a mother, a servant of G-d. I looked to my father and Laban for reassurance, for the ground was shaking beneath my feet. I called out to my angels silently, were they near? The gold bracelets weighing many shekels, kept slipping down my arms. My insides stirred.

Eleazer pointedly asked my father and brother to play their part in this ordained betrothel. “And now, if you mean to treat my master with true kindness, tell me; and if not, tell me also, that I may turn right or left.” Genesis 24:49

“And now, if you mean to treat my master with true kindness, tell me; and if not, tell me also, that I may turn right or left.” Genesis 24:49

Even my angels were trembling now, and I could, with certainty, feel their nearness.

There are similarities in households that let one know, unmistakably, that you are tied through blood. Serving the Eternal One, is ours. My father and brother answered that it was not for them to decide the merits of what was decreed by G-d. My fate was then sealed in permanence. 

Lost in thought, just as I was at the well, here was this man once more, no longer a stranger, but the change agent assigned to my life. He was putting garments in my lap now, and more objects of silver and gold. I was determined not to cry, or laugh, or be immodest in my expressions. In the days ahead, I would no longer be described as a young girl never having been with a man. It was clear.  It was now time to shed this act of running back as I’m apt to do, to this safe place in my father’s house, where I am only a little girl. I would serve G-d, and my people, now, in a higher form. A little girl, for certain, cannot do that. 

I swallowed hard and sat up straighter, chest forward and high like my mother. Eleazer had made his way to her, too, with gifts of celebration, sealing the contract of a bridegroom and bride. My brother Laban also received tokens of appreciation from Eleazer. I checked in with my chesed emblem, and tried not to think that tokens of appreciation were not necessary for my brother. My angels surely frowned at me. The feast began in earnest now.

The morning sun caught me by surprise, as did the women of my mother’s household. They were waking me with plans, and talk of children, of their sister (me), who would deliver sons and daughters, furthering worship of our G-d by making our people stronger in number. I wondered how long I would continue to be in the care of my mother, before I would journey to Abraham’s home, to the home where Isaac would be waiting to take me as his wife.

My answer seemed to be spinning in the air before there was even time to feed the men at the break of this second day.  There was a tension between my father and Abraham’s servant. Eleazer was making it known that he was prepared to take his leave this new day to return to his master with the results of his sacred errand. Laban and my mother urged, “Let the maiden remain with us some ten days; then you may go.” Genesis 24:55

“Let the maiden remain with us some ten days; then you may go.” Genesis 24:55

But Eleazer could not be moved from his urgency. He was loyal only to the needs of his ageing master, Abraham, and the desire of his L-rd, that Isaac be paired with a wife of his kindred. 

I waited for one of the men —  my father, my brother, or, perhaps, even Eleazer — to once again determine the cornerstones of my life. At this impasse, the miraculous unfolded. My brother and my mother responded that I was to be asked for my own reply. 

Recalling that my father and brother made no verbal path for me regarding the question of betrothal, not right or left, knowing this union was the decree of the Almighty, I was taken aback with the weight of this decision. Truthfully, any decision. I had not been asked to make one prior to this moment. 

Assuredly, I answered. I would go. 

The journey was long, but the camels seemed to know the direction to Isaac’s home. These journeying creatures know more about my husband and his land than I do. Is he of great height? Is he a herdsman? Though I know our union is firstly to multiply our people, dare that I might hope that this man, Isaac, whose name means, “to laugh,” could have a have a kind heart? Might he show me comfort and kindness, the way I was accustomed, at my father’s household? Did I leave the warmth of my childhood too soon? I was not practiced at making decisions. Perhaps my bold reply was in error. Now I wished for those ten days among my own kin.

It was early in the evening when I knew we were there. I saw a man walking toward us. He had been lasuach, out walking in the field, meditating peacefully. With no task in mind, Isaac looked up and noticed us in the distance.  I was right behind Eleazer, my nursemaid following close, my angels, closer still. I sensed my angels were no longer trembling, but awaiting the moment to rejoice before G-d, proud as angels are to please G-d. I questioned Eleazer, though I knew in my heart who the man walking toward us was.

I alighted from my camel quickly, as any young, strong maiden would. There would be rejoicing soon enough. With eyes closed, I felt the sanctity in our pure, destined pairing. But one last moment for me, one last shedding of Bethuel’s little girl. I reached for my veil and let it fall over my head and long hair, all the while breathing in the joy and familiarity of my childhood years. This time, I walked to the strange man slowly, for transformations can take time. 

Rebeka

There were questions softly asked and answered between Eleazer and his master. I waited patiently. Isaac then turned his full attention to me, and I knew him instantly. My fear had become knowing.

Together we walked to the tent of the woman he had loved deeply, his mother, Sarah. 

My veil still offering me moments to embrace my new holy place in this world, I smiled a woman’s smile of contentment and gratitude, and entered his sacred space. 

Me and my emblem, my chesed, and my angels close and closer, were rewarded in a way that had never been spoken of before. 

“Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.”  Genesis 24:67

Isaac lived by the same emblem I cherish. Together, we laugh and love each other in the way G-d intended.

You can find Debbi K. Levy teaching yoga, sensory Torah, and meditation through a Jewish lens at congregations in Greater Dallas. She is happy to make her way to your congregation, too, if you have room, and feed for her camel. She welcomes your e mails@ debbiklevy@gmail.com