Friday, November 02, 2007

Rivkah and Avraham

When Eliezer goes to find a wife for Yitzchak, the Torah tells us that he found 'Rivkah coming out, who was born to Betuel'. (Gen. 24:15) This seems quite redundant, as in 22:23, the Torah has already told us the exact same fact, that Rivkah was born to Betuel. What is being added here? Further, the verb used in our verse is pu'al, effectively making Betuel's fathering of Rivkah passive. Why this change from 22:23 and, indeed, most other similar situations in scripture, where the verb is active?

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchiv has an interesting explanation. Rivkah, he says, was born to Betuel, it is true, but not in his merit, and not for him. Rivkah was given to Betuel for Avraham. Avraham is the hidden cause for the birth, and she carries his personality, as a proof of authenticity. Rivkah's capacity for loving-kindness is unique in her generation, and recalls Avraham's chessed. It is for this reason that Eliezer was so sure of his selection.

All middot must be balanced by an opposing one. Too much strictness is dangerous, and so is too much kindness. Especially in raising a family (or, in the fore-fathers' cases, a nation), we need to make sure we provide a balance of traits as examples for our children. Each fore-father had a specific characteristic. Avraham was full of loving-kindness, while Yitzchak exemplified gevurah, strict justice. In order for them to produce successful families, they needed the input of opposing traits from their wives. It is clear from last week's parashah that Sarah was able to provide the trait of gevurah, as we see from her sending away Yishmael when he became a bad influence.

Yitzchak needed a balance, and this was provided by Rivkah's loving-kindness. The proper mate for Yitzchak had to be inspired by Avraham's trait.

The Talmud (Bava Batra 16b) records an argument. Some amoraim hold that Avraham had a daughter, implied by the verse stating that Avraham was blessed with everything. Others hold he had no daughter. Perhaps this view of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak in his Kedushat HaLevi can make peace between the two views.

It is only with a harmonious balance of traits on display in a Jewish home can children be raised with a healthy atmosphere of love and strictness. Our fore-bearers are a lesson to us in how we must structure our homes for the benefit of our children and, indeed, for all of Israel.