Genesis – Chapter 24

24:1  “Now Abraham was old…”  –  The Talmud observes: Until Abraham, there was no old age.  Whoever saw Abraham thought him to be Isaac, and vice versa.  Abraham then prayed for (visible) old age, and his prayer was answered, as it is written: “Now Abraham was old” [i.e. visibly old; for though old age is mentioned prior to this, as for example regarding Abraham and Sarah in 18:11; the elders of Sodom (19:4); Lot (19:31), in those cases only chronological age is meant.  Our verse, however, traditionally alludes to the appearance of old age – grey hair – which originated with Abraham.]

The Midrash observes: One may have the dignity of old age without its years, or longevity without dignity.  In this case however, it was the dignity of old age matched by the length of days, and the longevity was matched by the dignity of age.

The Mussar is a Jewish path of character development and spiritual growth leading to awareness, wisdom, and moral conduct.  The Mussar masters perceive in this expression that Abraham’s life was full and meaningful in every aspect.  Every day of his life represented a new challenge and a new mission.  Thus, while a great person looks back upon a life full of fruitful days, a wicked one has a full catalog of wasted and abused days.  In this sense, our verse describes Abraham’s accumulated years as ‘he came with the days’ ~ he brought along into his old age all of his days.  Not one moment of his life was wasted or spent in anything but service to his Creator.

“..with everything.”  – The Talmud (Bava Basra 16b-17a) teaches that the Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were given an inkling of the World to Come, and that the Evil Inclination had no dominion over them.  This is derived from the fact that expressions with the word ‘everything’ ~ which implies perfection, a totally unflawed blessing ~ are used in the Torah referring to each of the Patriarchs.

Regarding Abraham, this verse ~ ‘with everything’; regarding Isaac, it is written (27:33): ‘and I have partaken from everything’; regarding Jacob (33:11): ‘for God has been gracious to me and I have everything.’

24:2  The commentators emphasize that Eliezer’s loyalty was such that his name is never mentioned throughout this entire narrative, and appears only once in 15:2.  This is testimony to the extent that Eliezer’s entire self was devoted to Abraham, his master.  The righteous servant sublimated his own identity in order to be known as Abraham’s servant.  In fact, the Midrash notes, Eliezer’s features came to resemble Abraham’s and as the Talmud (Yoma 28b) comments, Eliezer was entitled, indicating that he sat on Abraham’s council and had acquired his master’s learning.  Yet, as a descendant of the accursed Canaan, he could not intermarry with Abraham.

“..who controlled all that was his..”  – Eliezer was the executor of Abraham’s will; one whom Isaac would have to obey in the event of his father’s death.  (Ramban)

“..your hand under my thigh.”  – Rashi explains that one who takes an oath must place his hand on some sacred object such as a Torah scroll or tefillin (Shevuos 38b).  Because circumcision was the first precept given to Abraham and came to him only through much pain, it was therefore particularly precious to him, and Abraham selected the organ as the object upon which to take this oath.

According to Abarbanel, this does not necessarily suggest that Abraham would actually allow his servant to grasp his organ, as such an act would be an indignity.  Rather the form of oath was such that the servant symbolically placed his hand under his thigh as if to signify: Remember the covenant of circumcision by which we have both bound ourselves.

24:3  “..I will have you swear..”  – Realizing the infirmities of his old age, Abraham feared that he might die before Eliezer’s return.  Accordingly, by having the servant undertake a sacred oath, Abraham assured himself of unwavering loyalty to his plan because he knew that Isaac would follow the counsel of Eliezer, who ‘controlled all that was his.’ (verse 2)

Since Abraham knew that Eliezer’s loyalty was complete, why did he find it necessary to administer an oath?  Shem MiShuel comments that every person has within him strength and fortitude of which he himself is not aware.  In time of crisis, he can draw upon them – if he is determined enough to do so – to conquer seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  Abraham knew that Eliezer’s mission could be beset by unpredictable pitfalls and difficulties, so much so that Eliezer dedicated himself to such an extent that he would persevere in the face of the ‘impossible’.  Precisely because he took the oath, the obstacles failed to materialize – because they could not have deterred him in any case.

‘..daughters of the Canaanites,..’  – A generic name for the eleven descendants of Canaan who populated the land ~ Zidonite, Hittite, Jebusite, Emorite, Girgashite; Hivvite; Arkite; Sinite; Erodite; Zimrite; Hamite.

The seed of Canaan was specifically cursed (9:25) while Abraham’s seed was blessed (22:18).  The two, could therefore not mingle. 

24:4  Rashi comments in 22:20 citing the Midrash, after the Akeidah Abraham was concerned that Isaac was still unmarried and he considered marrying him to one of the daughters of Aner, Eshkol and Mamre ‘for they are virtuous women and of what concern to me is their (accursed Canaanite) birth?  God therefore caused Abraham to be informed that Isaac’s mate had already been born in his family.  For until that time, there had been no births in Abraham’s family, and the righteous daughters of his comrades would have been the logical choice for him.  Now that the revelation of the birth was given him, he dispatched his trusted servant to his family.

It is noteworthy that Abraham did not clearly command Eliezer to bring back Rebecca.  Perhaps he relied on Divine Providence to guide Eliezer to the preordained spouse.  Or he may have felt that if Eliezer were told that there was only a single acceptable girl, he might have felt that the mission was too difficult ~ what if she preferred not to go?

Two considerations are to guide Eliezer in choosing the woman: her character must be such that she can become Abraham’s daughter, even as Isaac is his son; thus she must be worthy, ‘for my son’ but that is not enough: she must be suitable for Isaac’s personality, because two individuals may be of excellent character yet not be suitable for one another.  (Hirsch)

24:5  Eliezer does not doubt that he will find the suitable mate who will consent to marry Isaac; he is apprehensive, however, that she might not want to go with him and forsake her family. (Hoffman)

He also asked “What if I no longer find you alive upon my return from my mission.  Tell me now whether I should bring your son back there in the event she refuses to accompany me?  (Radak)

24:6  Radak continues: For Abraham thus emphasized that Isaac was on no account to leave the precincts of the Land which God had Promised to his descendants.  Isaac was the only Patriarch who never left Canaan.  God later forbade him to do so, even in days of famine.  (26:28)

24:7  “He will send His angel before you,..”  – Hashem will send His angel not with you but ‘before’ you.  The Midrash specifically stated that a particular angel was meant.  This is derived from the possessive “His angel”.  It refers to Michael, or to the angel of charge of marriage.

24:8  Abraham was completely confident of God’s Providential assistance in fulfilling his request, but he was, at the same time, prepared for a possible Divine denial of success.  This absolute trust exemplified by the righteous is a fundamental principle of faith.

24:11  “..a well of water..”  – He chose a well since it is the sort of central place where a stranger seeking information would usually station himself.  (Midrash HaGadol)

“ evening time,..”  – The Zohar notes that this timing, too, was part of the Divine Plan.  For when Eliezer reached Charan and met Rebecca at evening time it was the time of ‘afternoon prayer’.  Thus, the moment when Isaac began the afternoon prayer coincided with the moment when the servant encountered Rebecca. 

So, too, it was at the very moment of his afternoon prayer that Rebecca came to Isaac himself.  Thus, all was fittingly disposed through the working of the Divine Wisdom.

24:12  Eliezer was apprehensive that the family of the girl might object to her leaving home for a distant marriage.  He therefore proposed the test in the following verses in order that Abraham’s relations would recognize God’s hand in the ensuing events.  Since he implored God in His Providence to perform certain signs, and God fulfilled them in every detail – they would recognize that everything led to exclaim: The matter stems from Hashem! (which in fact they did – see verse 50), and would consent to allow their daughter to leave home and accompany the man. 

“..God of my master Abraham,..”  – Eliezer was not so brazen as to pronounce the Divine Name as God of the heaven and God of the earth as did Abraham (verse 3), because he felt himself unworthy.  Instead he contented himself to refer to Him as the God of his master who knows the Attributes by which God is called.  (Abarbanel)

“ kindness with my master Abraham.”  – For, if You act as I am about to propose, it will be a sure sign to me that You have done so as an act of graciousness for my master Abraham.

24:13  The criteria are established:  i.e. ~ away from a home atmosphere, and hence in a better perspective to judge the character of a prospective bride.  For here the girl will act freely in accordance with her own innate character, while what a girl does at home may not necessarily reflect her own nature because there she might be under constraint of her relatives’ orders or expectations.

24:14  “..even water your camels,..”  – This response would be a barometer of her wisdom and tenderness, showing that she had said to herself: This man is obviously handicapped if he cannot lower a jug to draw himself water from the well.  If he cannot give himself a drink than most likely he is unable to water the animals.

Her concern over the thirst of the camels would indicate her kindness to animals.

24:15  “..before he had finished drinking..”  – this is similar to Isaiah 65:24 “before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear”.  (Radak)

For so swift was the Divine response to his petition, that while he was still in the midst of his supplication, Providence had already caused Rebecca to leave her house and go to the well.  This may be compared to God’s interjected response to Abraham’s prayer for children in 15:4.

24:16  “ man had known her.”  –  According to Rashi the phrase “and no man had known her” is not a redundancy parallel to the word, virgin.  Rather, following the Midrash, he explains that heathen maidens preserved their virginity, you freely practiced unnatural intimacy.  He accordingly distinguishes between the two terms and renders as a virgin – in the literal sense; and no man had known her – unnaturally.

24:18  “Drink, my lord”  – She answers “drink” and adds “my lord” although he stands as a slave before her… Thus, step by step, she shows her Abrahamic feelings, and proves herself worthy to succeed Sarah as the family matriarch.  (Hirsch)

24:19  Rebecca did not respond by saying ‘I will water your camels as Eliezer had anticipated in formulating his criteria in verse 14.  Rather she offered only to draw the water for them.  This was further proof of her modesty, since the Sages in Kesubos 61b perceive it to be immodest for a woman to feed male beasts (i.e. from her hand).  Therefore, she modestly proposed to draw the water for them and fill the troughs after which they would drink their fill themselves.  It is also possible that since there was a trough from which the animals could drink themselves, when Eliezer said water them, he anticipated only that she would draw the water and fill the troughs.

24:20  “..running to the well..”  – Rebecca runs eagerly when he performs an act of kindness, as did Abraham when he was providing for his guests (18:7); a further sign of her suitability to join Abraham’s household.

“..she drew for all his camels.”  – Ten camels would consume at least 140 gallons of water!  The task so eagerly undertaken by Rebecca of drawing such large quantities of water for a stranger’s camels was indeed not a token gesture.

24:21  “..reflecting silently..”  – Although he was overawed by her compulsion to do such kindness, he maintained his silence instead of saying, as courtesy would have dictated, ‘Do not go to so much trouble.’  (Sforno)

24:22  “..when the camels had finished drinking..”  –  This must naturally have taken a considerable amount of time.  Since she did not ask for any payment he now knew that she possessed graciousness befitting the wife of his master’s son, and her motives were entirely unselfish.

There is a difference of opinion among the expositors as to whether Eliezer actually presented her with these gifts before inquiring as to her identity, or whether he prepared them in anticipation of the good news he would soon receive, but did not give them until he verified that she was a member of Abraham’s family.  The latter opinion is apparently substantiated by Eliezer’s own account.

Ramban interprets that Eliezer’s account in verse 47 reflected the true sequence of events as they actually occurred.  First Eliezer established her identity and then gave her the gifts as indicated in verse 47.  Verse 22 indicates only that he ‘prepared’ the gifts for her.

Hirsch agrees that the gifts were not presented until afterwards, but he perceives a special purpose in Eliezer’s preparation of the gifts at this point.  Rebecca had already demonstrated that her character was sterling, but Eliezer’s next request would be for hospitality for himself and his ten camels.  To comply with such a request; not only Rebecca but her whole family would have to be of Abrahamic character.  To obtain such a show of generosity, Eliezer felt that it would be wise to display his wealth.  Indeed, knowing the mercenary nature of Laban, the dominant figure in the family, Rebecca may not have dared invite Eliezer had she not seen that he would make it worth Laban’s while.  In recounting these events in verse 47, however, Eliezer tactfully omitted this point; another example of the subtle delicacy he displayed throughout his mission.

“..two bracelets on her arms..”  – The two bracelets were symbolic of the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments which were joined together.  (Rashi)

“..ten gold (shekels) was their weight.”  – This was symbolic of the Ten Commandments which were inscribed upon the tablets.  (Rashi)

24:23  “..for us to spend the night..”  – The us is emphasized: ‘Do you have a place suitable for us – i.e. a place free of idolatry, since we are members of Abraham’s household – to spend the night?’  Therefore, having been so informed, when she replied she simply answered that there was ample space in her home for lodging but she did not say ‘for you’, since, in effect, the house had to be first cleansed of its idolatry, as Rashi notes in verse 31.

24:26  Hirsch explains that bowing without bending the knees, signifies submission of one’s head, one’s mind completely to whomever one bows.  Prostrating the entire body, signifies placing oneself entirely at the disposal of the one before whom he prostrates himself.  Here, Eliezer first bows his intellect before the management and guidance of the Divine Providence which had been clearly demonstrated to him, and then gives himself up entirely to it.

24:28  “..and told her mother’s household…”  – The woman had separate houses where they did their work, and a daughter, of course, confides only in her mother.  (Rashi)  In the case of Rachel, however, she told her father (29:12) because her mother had died and there was no one else to tell other than her father.  (Midrash)

24:29  Laban Or HaChaim cites the Midrash that in the case of righteous people, the word ‘name’ is mentioned before their name as in ‘and his name was Saul’ (I Samuel 9:2).  In this case of the wicked, however, the names are given first as in ‘Goliath was his name’ (1Samuel 17:4).  If so, why is the wicked Laban introduced as are the righteous, with his name given first?  The reason is suggested by the seemingly difficult sequence of the verses, for, in verse 39, which contains the allusion to Laban’s righteousness, he is described as running toward Eliezer even before he heard the full account of the episode from Rebecca (verse 30).  When he heard that a stranger had accosted his sister, he hurried to defend her honor (verse 29).  Only later when he heard the full story did he learn that Eliezer had acted properly and honorably.  Because Laban is introduced to us as a brother acting virtuously in what he thought was defense of his sister, he is described in accord with his deed – righteously.

Laban was the brother of Rebecca and the father of the matriarch’s Rachel and Leah.  Although usually portrayed as a schemer – specifically in his later dealings with Jacob – he seems to have had certain admirable characteristics which occasionally emerged among his otherwise sinister traits and which reflected his shining character of his righteous sister and daughters.  Rashi, following the Midrashic perspective, views Laban’s every action in the most sinister light as motivated by greed ~ thus anticipating the character of Laban as it reveals itself later in his relations with Jacob.  Ramban, however, in interpreting Laban’s character strictly on the basis of how he emerges from the simple sense of the Biblical text in the narrative, views him here in more sympathetic terms as being basically straightforward and honorable.

Rashi also accounts for the unusual order of these two verses and notes that the next verse explains the reason for his running: he saw the jewelry and judged Eliezer to be wealthy; as well as the fact that he overheard Rebecca’s account; for were it Laban’s intention to be hospitable rather than greedy, there would be no need for the Torah to mention his ‘seeing the jewelry’; the fact that he ’heard the account’ would have sufficed.

24:31  “..O blessed of Hashem..”  The Torah now records a prophetic expression placed – unbeknown to him – on Laban’s lips.  For his exemplary kindness to Abraham, Eliezer passed from the category of accursed Canaanite, into that of blessed.  Laban, however, had thought he was addressing Abraham, because their features were similar. (Midrash).

“..when I have cleared the house..”  According to Rashi (citing the Midrash) the phrase implies: I have cleared the house from the defilement of idols.  The verb used here, ‘clear’, is generally used in reference to clearing away an obstruction or something which people would find objectionable.  Therefore, since Eliezer was the servant of Abraham who had been persecuted for his denunciation of idolatry, the commentators related this word to the idols, since nothing could be more objectionable to a member of Abraham’s household than to lodge in the presence of idols.

“ for the camels?”  – For it is known that not even Abraham’s camels would enter a place containing idolatry.

Why did Laban go to all of this trouble on behalf of a stranger?  Because he conjectured to himself: If that man was so generous to my sister only because she drew water for him and his camels, imagine how generous he will be to me if I offer him and his camels lodging and even go through the trouble of cleaning the room for him.

24:32  “..he gave straw and feed..”  – Laban provided feed for the animals and water for Eliezer.  It would be unlikely that Eliezer himself would fetch water for his own feet and that of his men.  (Ramban)  First, he gave feed to the animals and only afterwards was food set before the guests (v 33), for one must not partake of food until he has fed his animals, for it is written (Deuteronomy 11:13): ‘I will give grass in your fields for your cattle’, and after that: ‘you shall eat and be satisfied.’  (Midrash HaGadol)

‘…of the men who were with him.”  – This is the first time that the Torah explicitly mentions that Eliezer was accompanied by others, although it is alluded to several times.

24:33  “Food was set before him,..”  – The Midrashim record a tradition ~ a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not written in scriptures ~ that they placed a deadly poison before Eliezer.  In Abraham’s merit, however, the dish was changed: Bethuel ate of it and died later that evening.

“..until I have spoken my words.”  – The mission has thus far been successful.  Divine Providence led Eliezer on the right path to the home of Abraham’s relatives, and to the girl who, by the test of her character, proved to be worthy of marriage to Isaac.  However, there was one obstacle still left ~ the doubt Eliezer had expressed earlier to Abraham: Perhaps the girl would not consent to follow him to Canaan.  He, therefore, was resolved to complete his task; he would not eat until the matter was settled beyond doubt.

Verses 34-39  The Recapitulation  Radak emphasizes that Eliezer repeated the whole story in order to convince them that God willed this marriage, thus delicately hinting that their refusal would not hinder it.

However, the Torah ~ which contains not a single letter without purpose ~ now proceeds to record at length Eliezer’s recapitulation of the events which led him to Bethuel’s house, when in reality, the Torah could merely have stated, “And Eliezer related to them these things’, etc.

Hoffman notes that it is common for the Torah to repeat a halachic, a law, or a narrative passage because of a meaningful detail which is added in the second version.  As we note, Eliezer’s repetition contains several such instruction additions and variations.

24:34  “A servant of Abraham..”  – He immediately introduces himself as Abraham’s servant and thereby indicates that that is why he must carry out his master’s mission, even before breaking bread.

The Zohar applies to Eliezer the verse ‘a slave honors his master” (Malachi 1:6), for in spite of all the precious valuables he brought along with him by virtue of which he could have pretended to be whatever he desired, he made no pretentious claims but informed him he was merely Abraham’s slave ~ his purpose being to enhance Abraham’s stature, so they could judge the greatness of his stature.

24:35  When a man wishes to marry a girl, he tells her of his lineage and the lineage of his family, in order to endear himself and his family to her.  Eliezer acted accordingly: First he spoke in praise of Abraham and then in the praise of Isaac.

24:36  In mentioning that Sarah gave birth to Isaac after she had grown old, Eliezer was anticipating a possible objection on their part: ‘How can you expect to pair a son of Abraham with a granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nachor?  This son must be an old man!’  Therefore, Eliezer, informed them that Isaac was born only after Sarah was old, and he was still relatively young.  Isaac was forty years old at the time.

And, since God performed a miracle, allowing Sarah to give birth to him at the age of ninety, you can be certain that he is a perfect young man, for God would not perform such a miracle for the sake of an ordinary son.

24:37  “ whose land I dwell.”  – Abraham in verse 3 had actually said “in whose midst I dwell.”  Eliezer, with great delicacy, changed ‘in whose midst’ to ‘in whose land’.  They would have found Abraham’s choice of words offensive.  It would have suggested that he had a tendency to be critical of those around him.

24:39  “Perhaps the woman will not follow me?”  – When Eliezer discussed with Abraham the possibility that the appropriate woman would not return to Canaan with him, he said ‘perhaps the woman would not ‘wish’ ~ implying that her ‘willingness’ would be a crucial factor.  Here, however, he omitted any such reference, saying merely that she will – in fact – not follow.  Originally, Eliezer envisioned only that the woman ~ of her own volition ~ might refuse to go to Canaan.  Now, however, that he saw Rebecca had no objections, Eliezer realized that her family might hinder her.  He therefore makes it clear to them that even if the woman will, in fact, not follow me through no ill-will of her own, but because of family hindrance, Abraham’s oath would be nullified and Isaac would be forced to seek a wife from among the Canaanites.  Eliezer alludes to this in verse 41 when he states: “an if they will not give her to you”, making the mission dependent on their consent, rather than, as Abraham had said (v8) on the girl’s consent. 

24:41  Eliezer immediately added that although Abraham had complete faith that God would make the mission successful, he was nevertheless prepared for the possibility that his wish would not materialize and the family would not cooperate.  Eliezer emphasized this so that they would not miscalculate and believe that his promise to Abraham compelled him to bring back a bride at any price, with the result that he was completely dependent upon them. 

24:42  “I came today..”  – Today I left and today I arrived.  The road contracted for him.  In only three hours, he found that he had miraculously completed what would ordinarily be a seventeen day journey.  (Rashi)

24:45  “I had not yet finished..”  – He mentioned this to further emphasize that the Godly origin of the matter was demonstrated by the immediacy of the response to his prayers ~ coming as it did before he had finished meditating.

24:48  “..and I blessed Hashem..”  – Eliezer related this to proclaim his absolute conviction that she was indeed the woman whom Hashem had designated and he is merely seeking their consent to conclude the matter.  He further wished to impress upon them that because of his conviction he blessed Hashem, had there been any doubt, such a blessing would have been premature.

24:49  ‘to deal kindly and truly..”  – Kindness denotes an action which one is not obligated to do while truth means to fulfill the promise of kindness.

The truth is that it is obviously God’s Will, the kindness is that you comply with His will by consenting to her accompanying me ~ a slave ~ and not insisting that Isaac himself come and fetch her.  (Malbim)

“ the right or to the left..”  – To the right refers to the daughters of Ishmael, who lived in the Wilderness of Paran in the south.  To the left refers to the daughters of Lot who lived to the left, or north, of Abraham.

24:50  “The matter stems from Hashem.”  – The Midrash asks: From when did it stem… i.e. when did God decree this and how did these heathens come to acknowledge it?  Rav Chaninah ben Yitchak comments: It stemmed from Mount Moriah ~ in other words it was preordained at Mount Moriah when, as he was descending with Isaac after the Akeidah, Abraham was informed of Rebecca’s birth (22:20-23).  The Rabbis stated that Rebecca’s family became convinced as a result of this incident that the marriage was Divinely ordained, as in their statement (v51) ‘let her be a wife to your master’s son as Hashem has spoken’ – the entire narrative of how Eliezer was led to Rebecca, which was a continuous story illustrating God’s Providence, convinced them that it was divinely decreed.

24:52  “When Abraham’s servant..”  – This is the only time in the entire chapter when he was given the title ‘Abraham’s servant’.  Having accomplished his mission in total obedience to Abraham’s wishes, he feels entitled to such an honored designation.  (Hirsch)

24:53  For the purpose of betrothal to Isaac, Eliezer acted as Isaac’s agent and gave Rebecca gifts.

24:55  “Her brother and mother said..”  – Where was her father Bethuel?  According to an account in the Midrash Aggadah, Bethuel died because the angel who accompanied Eliezer took the poisoned dish which had been set before Eliezer and exchanged it with Bethuel’s.  He ate from it and died.

24:56  “Do not delay me now..”  – Since everything has gone so smoothly and God so speedily guided my mission, it is obvious that He wishes me to return to my master without delay.

24:57  “Let us call the maiden..”  – From this we learn that a woman may be given in marriage only by her consent.

24:58  Radak also points out that they may have been asking her only about when she would accompany the man.  Presumably, however, she had already consented to the marriage, even before they expressed their approval to Eliezer (v51).  Although this is not specifically mentioned in the text, one would certainly not give his daughter in marriage without first consulting her.

24:59  Whether, as Rashi would interpret, they gave permission reluctantly to avoid her threatened defiance; or as Radak and Ramban would interpret, that they graciously acquiesced to her wishes, it must be noted that once Rebecca expressed her intention, they no longer hindered her.  As Abarbanel observes, however, no member of her immediate family accompanied her.  Possibly they were angered by her.

“..and her nurse, ..”  – According to Seder Olam, the most common Rabbinic chronology, Rebecca was but three years old at the time.

Ibn Ezra, who believes that Rebecca was older and in no need of a nurse, explains that this was the nurse of her infancy.  It was usual for a nurse to remain with a girl even after she had grown.

Apparently, they had also sent her maidens with her as well, but they are not specified here as receiving the honor of a family escort.  The nurse alone is mentioned as she was the most prominent among them.  They are, however, mentioned matter-of-factly in verse 61.  (Radak)

The nurse’s name was Deborah, as she is identified in 35:8.

24:60  “..may you come to be mother of thousands..”  May you and your offspring be the recipients of the blessings given to Abraham on Mount Moriah.  (22:17)  May it be His will that these offspring descend from you, as Isaac’s wife, and not from another woman. 

However, as the Midrash notes, their blessing was futile since God caused her to remain barren for twenty years, lest the heathens say ~ It was our prayer that bore fruit!  For, in fact, Rebecca did not conceive until Isaac prayed for her as it says (25:21): “Isaac entreated Hashem opposite his wife because she was barren, and Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him and his wife Rebecca conceived.”

“..and may your descendants inherit the gates of your enemies.”  – This blessing appears almost verbatim in God’s blessing to Abraham after the Akeidah in 22:17.  As explained there, the capture of the gate, the stronghold of a city, is symbolic of its downfall.  Therefore, gate is used in this connotation, the blessing being that her offspring should possess cities by inheriting or seizing their gates.

According to Ha’amek Davar the blessing refers to wise judges and counselors who sit at the gate of a city (19:1).  Thus, the blessing was that Rebecca’s descendants should achieve such a reputation for integrity and wisdom that even their enemies would seek their advice.

24:61  According to Sforno, the phrase: ‘the servant took Rebecca’ means that in his capacity as Isaac’s agent, he formally received her as the bride of his master Isaac.  Thereby, he became her servant as well and from this point forward, Scripture once again refers to him as the servant rather than ‘the man’, as previously mentioned in this verse.

Note:  They left at noon and to prevent Eliezer from being alone with Rebecca at night, the road miraculously contracted for him on his return journey as well, and in three hours, at the time of Minchah, the Afternoon Prayer, they returned home.

24:62  Isaac meets his bride – The Torah narrates that Isaac ‘happened’ to meet them on the road before they entered the city, just as Eliezer’s encounter with Rebecca at the well, etc., occurred by what seemed to be ‘chance’.  In reality, it was a result of God’s Providential Will, for ‘God deals righteously with the righteous’.  (Radak)

Isaac was returning from Lachai Ro’i which was a place of prayer for him since it was there that an angel revealed himself to Hagar (16:14).  He went there to pray at this favorable site where Hagar’s prayers had once been answered.  Even before his wife was already approaching ~ as in the same manner of Isaiah 65:24.

“ the south country.”  – According to Midrash, HaGadol, the designation ‘south country’ refers in itself to Hebron since Hebron is specifically described in 35:27 as the place where Abraham and Isaac had lived.

Midrash Sechel Tov elaborates that when Isaac returned from the Academy of Shem and Eber where he studied for three years following the Akeidah, he rejoined his father in Hebron which, as in 12:9, is referred to as the South ~ facing Jerusalem and Mount Moriah ~ in what would become the territory of Judah.  Accordingly, it was towards Hebron, to his father, that Isaac was now returning after having gone to Be’er Lachai Ro’i.

24:63  “Joseph went out to supplicate..”  – The translation supplicate follows Rashi who explains that it means to pray, as in Psalms 102:1: A prayer of the afflicted when he pours forth his supplication before Hashem.

The follows the Talmud, Berachos 26b, and Midrash, which derive from this verse the tradition that Isaac instituted the Minchah, the Afternoon Prayer.  That Abraham instituted the Shacharis, the Morning Prayer, is derived from 19:27; and that Jacob instituted the Aravis, the Evening Prayer, is derived from 28:11.

“Camels were coming!”  – The Providential Hand of God was evident when Isaac saw them on his way home.  Isaac could not have expected to meet them because it was only yesterday that Eliezer had embarked on what should have been a seventeen day journey in each direction, but which was miraculously shortened to three hours each way.

24:65  “Who is that man walking..”  – When Rebecca saw a man walking in the field and turning towards them, she realized that he was approaching them either to greet them or to offer lodging.  As was proper for a woman, she reacted by discounting from the camel and stood modestly.  Then, as he was still approaching them, she inquired exactly who he was, and upon hearing that he was Isaac, she veiled herself.

Rebecca veiled her face out of awe of Isaac, and shame to be in his presence, as though to indicate that she considered herself unworthy of him.  This set the pattern for their subsequent relationship which was unique among the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah were often assertive in their relationships with their husbands.  Rebecca, on the other hand, never confronted Isaac directly.  Thus we find that she tolerated Isaac’s favor toward Esau although she knew that Esau had been deceiving his father.  When the time came for the blessings to be given, she employed deception to secure them for Jacob.

This sort of relationship was preordained by God in that the transmission of the blessings would take place in a seemingly underhanded manner.  The purpose of His plan will be discussed in the succeeding chapters.

24:66  Eliezer reported to Isaac the miracles that had happened ~ how the earth had contracted for him, and how Rebecca had been ready for him in speedy response to his prayers.

24:67  “..brought her into Sarah’s tent..”  – and behold, she was as Sarah, his mother.  That is, she became like Sarah in every respect.  For as long as Sarah was alive, a lamp burned in her tent from one Sabbath eve to another, her dough was blessed, and a cloud, signifying the Divine Presence, hung over her tent.  When Sarah died, these ceased, but when Rebecca entered the tent they returned.  (Rashi)

“He married Rebecca, she became his wife, and he loved her.”  – Hirsch notes that marriage preceded love; the longer they were married, the more Isaac loved her.  In this, the first Jewish marriage, the Torah illustrates the principal that has generally been followed by Jews: Jewish marriages are contracted not as a result of passion and romance, but as a result of good judgment and sound reason.  If the couple is well suited, the marriage will result in love and happiness.  Marriages based on pre-marital infatuation, however, all too often fail the test of married life.

Hirsch continues that the chapter ends with words that exalt and honor that status of a Jewish wife.  Isaac was a mature man when his mother died, but he could not be consoled as long as the sweetness and goodness of the Matriarch were gone from the home.  In his wife, he found consolation ~ she embodied worth, nobility and greatness.

Ramban says Isaac was deeply grieved for his mother and found no consolation until he was consoled by his wife through his love for her.  This love was inspired by her righteousness and aptness of deeds, the only criteria on which the Torah bases the love between a man and his wife.

Thus is the way of the world: a man is attached to his mother during her lifetime.  When she dies, he finds comfort in his wife.  (Rashi)

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