Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Someone once approached his town’s rabbi just before Pesach and asked if he could fulfill the obligation of drinking four cups of wine at the Seder by drinking cups of milk instead. The rabbi said “No” and gave the person who asked a nice donation. The rabbi’s wife then asked: “Why did you give him so much money? Four cups of wine don’t cost that much.” And he answered: “I gave him enough for all the expenses of a proper Seder because from his question I understood that he had none of the Seder necessities. How is it possible to drink milk at a festival meal that includes meat?”. Rav Shlomo Wolbe would tell this story when discussing this week’s Torah portion: We don’t want to be kindness robots, giving only what’s asked or what’s expected. We need to go above and beyond, with insight into the other’s plight, to check and see what is behind a simple request for help. Rivka meets Eliezer in this week’s parasha. He asks only for a little water for himself but then she brings abundant water for his 10 camels, too. He asks only to spend the night but then she suggests that he extend his stay for several extra nights in her family’s home.
Sometimes, when someone turns to us with what is apparently a minor problem, we do what is needed to “plug the hole” or “fix the leak.” But what we hear may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to that person’s actual distress. We need to consider what the person opposite us truly needs and how it would be possible to give much more than is being asked. When it comes to giving, this quality of going above and beyond, this a special brand of kindness – is what transformed Rivka into Rivka Imeinu.