Polar Opposites [or, Three of a Perfect Pair]

The highest peace is the peace between opposites[1].”

This week’s parashah provides a look at some drastically different personalities. Those who are righteous must meet, interact, and tolerate those who are not.

Eliezer: His master, Abraham, sent him on a journey back to Haran to find an appropriate wife for Isaac[2]. He heads toward this distant land and asks the G-d of Abraham for assistance. His prayer was for the completion of his master’s quest and the fulfillment of Isaac’s happiness[3]. Once he realized that Hashem guided him to the door of Abraham’s family, he thanked G-d for not withholding His kindness from his master[4]. He prayed, not for himself, but for Abraham.

Lavan: Aside from brief biographical information[5], the first time we see Laban, we get an instant glimpse into his character. Once he sees the betrothal gifts and hears of the ten camels, he runs to Eliezer[6]. Laban bases his hospitality and kindness solely upon the hope of gaining something from the visitor. In fact, they even attempt to delay the man for ten to 12 months[7] in order to drain the financial liquidity he has in his possession[8]. Just because Laban and Bethuel said, “The thing proceeds from Hashem[9],” doesn’t mean they necessarily believed it, for if they did, they certainly wouldn’t have attempted to delay Eliezer for upwards of one year.

Rebekah: Torah gives a picture of a young woman who shows hospitality to strangers – even to the point of significantly inconveniencing herself for his benefit. She pulled water from the community well – repeatedly – in order to water Eliezer’s ten camels [this no easy task][10]. The text intends to guide our memory back to our father Abraham who rushed to greet three strangers and served them his best[11]. In the end, she has the wisdom to understand the significance of Eliezer’s arrival and the providence of the events they shared. She chooses to leave the comfort of familiarity and follows[12] Eliezer to meet her future husband[13] – sight unseen.

 It should be a given occurrence to see the righteous produce righteous offspring [Abraham with Isaac; Isaac with Jacob]. Unfortunately, we live in a pluralistic world [here in the United States, at least], and the separation that once allowed a community to mold the next generation rarely exists. Now, it appears to be an everyday occurrence that the righteous produce unrighteous offspring [Isaac vs. Esau]. The positive side effect is that the righteous have a greater chance of influencing the world around them. How happy Heaven is when the unrighteous produce righteous children [Bethuel vs. Rebekah]!

[1] Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Halakhot I:80

[2] Genesis 24:2-4

[3] 24:12-14

[4] 24:27

[5] 24:29; interestingly, Genesis 22:20-24 provides information on Abraham’s family who remained in Aram-Naharaim [the city of Nahor in the country of Aram], but the text neglects to mention Laban. It’s as if the family is embarrassed.

[6] 24:29

[7] 24:55; see b. Ketubot 57b

[8] Ref: 24:53

[9] 24:50

[10] 24:19

[11] 24:20

[12] B. Eruvin 18b uses this text to prove Rebekah’s modesty

[13] Ref: b. Bava Kamma 92b

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