These are things which have no limit
Susan Katz Miller's Being Both

Emulating Rebecca

71In this week's parsha (Chayei Sarah), Avraham sends his servant Eliezer forth to find a wife for Isaac. He offers little instruction aside from " go back to where I came from, and get a wife from there."

Eliezer -- whose name means something like "My God is my helpmeet" -- turns to God for help. He prays that God will help him find the right woman for Isaac. He says to God that when he stops at a well, if there is a woman who offers water not only to him but also to his camels, he will know that she's "the one."

Sure enough, when he stops at the well, Rebecca offers water not only to him but to his beasts, too. And he takes her back to Isaac, and they marry -- the first time in the Hebrew Bible that we read that a man loved his wife.

Giving water to a wayfaring stranger in a desert land is the bare minimum of hospitality. But offering to water a train of camels too -- that's a major undertaking.

Rebecca goes above and beyond. In her physical acts at that well, she draws on her own internal well of compassion and kindness to meet this travel-bedraggled stranger with kindness and compassion.

How can we be like Rebecca as this Shabbat approaches -- cultivating the habit of drawing forth compassion from the wellspring of our hearts, so that our natural response to everyone we meet is one of kindness and welcoming?

This is more-or-less the teaching I offered this morning at my shul's meditation minyan. The image comes from the Vienna Genesis, a 6th-century illuminated manuscript. Shabbat shalom!