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Walk a Mile for a Camel

Rabbi Moshe Lieber

Parshat Chayei Sarah

Oct 21, 2009

Camels play a disproportionately large role in the story of Eliezer’s quest until he found Rivka for Yitzchak.

When he met her at the well, the Torah tells us that he waited with bated breath to see if she was the baalas chessed he sought for Yitzchak. “And it was, when the camels had finished drinking, the man took a golden nose ring etc.” What was so significant about the fact that the camels had finished drinking that convinced him that she was the girl?

The word âîì has a few meanings in Lashon Hakodesh. It means camel, it means reward as in âîåì and it means to wean off as in åéâîì àú éöç÷ . What is the connection between these seemingly disparate ideas?

To wean off means that one is transformed from being dependent to being independent. When a child stops nursing and begins to eat normally he has taken the first step to independent adulthood.

This is also the underlying idea behind why Hashem gave us Torah and mitzvos.

The Gemara in Pesachim underscores this when it teaches that the 26 times it says   ëé ìòåìí çñãå in Hallel HaGadol correspond to the 26 generations from Adam until Matan Torah that Hashem sustained in His kindness. On the surface this sounds astounding. Are we to understand that after Mattan Torah He no longer sustains us with His kindness?!

R’ Gershon Henach of Radzin explains: The ultimate in chessed is when I can provide someone with the ability to earn a living. By doing so I save them the shame of having to take handouts and allow them to be independent. The greatest form of chessed is to give in a way that the recipient no longer needs me. This is what Hashem did for us when He gave us the Torah. He provided us with a way to earn our right to exist rather than being schnorrers who have life as a freebee. This is deepened chessed for it allows the recipient to wean off of dependency on the benefactor.

The âîåì that Hashem provides us, in reward for our living Torah and mitzvos, expresses the fact that He grants us independence and allows us to earn reward. Divine Reward is a symbol of the fact that we wean off of Matnas Chinam and provide, as it were, for ourselves.

Did you ever wonder why the camel has humps in which it stores water? The âîì is the living example of independence. Once it drinks it can go long periods of time without needing to get water from others. Hence as the symbol of independence it is called âîì .

When Eliezer saw that Rivkah kept giving the camels to drink until they could drink no more, he realized that she is truly a baalas chessed who understands that âîéìåú çñã  means providing in a way that makes the recipient independent from the beneficiary. She can become part of Avraham’s house and be the mother of a nation of gomlei chassadim.

We all do chessed .Let us commit to do chessed in ways that give the recipient the feeling that he does us the favor rather that we do him or her the favor. Let us be true Gomlei Chessed.

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