Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother.—Genesis 24:53
The Torah portion for this week, Chayei Sarah, which means “the life of Sarah,” is from Genesis 23:1—25:18 and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 1:1–31.
In this week’s reading, we said goodbye to Sarah and met Rebekah. After Sarah’s death, Abraham sent his trusted servant to find Isaac a wife. The servant traveled to the land of Abraham’s birth and identified Rebekah as the worthy partner for Isaac. The servant presented Rebekah with a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets. She ran home to tell her brother, Laban, and father, Bethuel, about the man and his gifts. The two men greeted the servant and offered him hospitality; however, according to the Jewish sages, they had no real interest in bestowing kindness on him. Their interest was in the gifts that he might bestow upon them!
Now, follow closely. Laban and Bethuel invited the servant into their home for a meal. However, the servant insisted on first telling the story of how he came to identify Rebekah as Isaac’s soul mate. After the story both Laban and Bethuel agreed that the match was from God. We can assume that at this point, everyone began to eat. The verse then tells us that the servant gave more expensive gifts to Rebekah and “he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother.” The servant gave gifts to Rebecca’s brother and mother, but what about her father who was also sitting right there?
The sages teach that when Bethuel noticed that Abraham’s servant came with 10 camels laden with treasures, he was overcome by greed. He planned to poison the servant and help himself to the camels and possessions. Bethuel invited the servant to eat with this sinister plan in place; however, God caused a mix-up to occur and Bethuel was served the poisoned food that was intended for the servant. Bethuel died during the meal and was already gone when Abraham’s servant gave gifts to Rebecca’s family.
In Proverbs 1:19 we read, “Such is the fate of all who are greedy for money; it robs them of life” (NLT). In Bethuel’s case this was quite literal! However, in a figurative sense this verse can apply to us all. We can all fall into the trap of wanting so much that we are robbed of our joy and vitality.
The sages provide an antidote to the dangers of greed. They ask, “Who is wealthy?” and answer, “He who is happy with his lot.” We don’t need more possessions; we need more enjoyment. When we take the time to appreciate what we have, we’ll feel satisfied. If we never appreciate what we have now, we can be as rich as a king and it will never be enough. Whether we have a little or a lot, we need to enjoy what we’ve got.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President