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Show, Don’t Tell

Avraham sent his trusted steward, Eliezer, to his ancestral home to find a suitable partner for Yitzchak.

Eliezer had key criteria that would be identifying traits of the right candidate; the ideal woman would be kind to him, but also to his camels and entourage as well.

When Eliezer approached Avraham’s hometown, there were many young women drawing water at the local well, one of whom was Rivka. Before exchanging introductions or pleasantries, she drew water for him to drink and then his thirsty camels, satisfying Eliezer’s criteria and correctly distinguishing herself as the person he had been looking for.

Based on a textual anomaly, the Midrash suggests that as Rivka approached the well to draw water, the water rose up to meet her, saving her any effort.

The function of this teaching is to mark Rivka as an extraordinary individual; but taking it at face value, why wouldn’t such a fantastic miracle be sufficient for Eliezer to identify her as the right person?

R’ Chaim Shmulevitz sharply suggests that even if you can perform miracles, miracles don’t speak to your quality as an individual. Miracles don’t make you a good person – good deeds make you a good person.

R’ Shamshon Raphael Hirsch highlights how Rivka told Eliezer she would get him some water, and only once he had finished did she say that she would help with his camels as well. Rivka did not promise the kind things she would do; she just did them when the moment came; highlighting the key trait of saying a little and doing a lot – אֱמֹר מְעַט וַעֲשֵׂה הַרְבֵּה.

You are the things you do, not the things you say you’re going to do.

Quite unusually for a Torah story, we also see Rivka’s quality in her blindness to social class. Eliezer was a stranger and servant, yet Rivka treated him with dignity and respect, even referring to him as “my lord.” The story also highlights how Rivka deliberately exerted herself to help as quickly as possible – וַתְּמַהֵר וַתְּעַר כַּדָּהּ אֶל־הַשֹּׁקֶת וַתָּרץ עוֹד אֶל־הַבְּאֵר לִשְׁאֹב וַתִּשְׁאַב לְכל־גְּמַלָּיו׃.

This origin story of our ancestors is not a story of miracles or about vanquishing evil; it’s a story about the gentle and kind heart worthy of being a mother in the house of Avraham.

In this story, we see a bias towards urgent action, not talking. We see kindness towards a stranger, sensitivity to the human dignity of inferior or lower-class individuals, and compassion towards animals.

You probably don’t experience daily miracles. But even in the age of miracles, miracles were never the thing that made humans great.

It’s what you do that can make you great, and that’s always and only been solely up to you.