Parshas Chayei Sarah describes the journey of Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, who was sent on a mission to Padan Aram to find a wife for his master’s son, Isaac. As Eliezer arrived, he saw a young girl, Rebecca, approach the well to draw water. Eliezer got excited and ran towards her to see if perhaps she was the one intended to be Isaac’s bride.
What was it that triggered his excitement and caused him to reckon that she was the right one? Rashi (24:17) cites a Medrash which says that he witnessed a miracle happening to her. As she came to draw water from the well, the water rose to the top of the well so that she need not trouble herself to bend over and fetch the water.
The Ramban (24:17), however, deduces from the language of the verses that this miracle only occurred the first time she approached the well. The times afterwards, when she went to fetch water for the Eliezer’s camels, the water did not rise up for her.
Why is it that the miracle occurred only the first time she drew water from the well and not the succeeding times? The Kedushas Levi offers the following answer: The first time she drew water from the well, her intention was to do so for herself; not as an act of kindness for Eliezer. Therefore, because of her righteousness, a miracle took place in order to ease her strain.
The succeeding times however, she was doing so as a Mitzvah (a good deed) of Chessed (an act of kindness) with the intention of giving water to Eliezer’s camels, no miracle occurred to assist her. Because when it comes to doing a Mitzvah, the more involved a person is in the act, the greater the Mitzvah is. Doing a Mitzvah is not merely about producing the end result. Doing a Mitzvah is about the act itself. When it comes to performing Mitzvos, the more exertion involved in carrying it out, the great the accomplishment is.
A young student once complained to Rebbe Yankele of Peshvorsk about his struggles in Yeshivah (school for Talmud study). He felt he was different than the other boys and he felt lonely. These thoughts occupied his mind and distracted him from his studies. He concluded by asking for a blessing that his challenges should vanish.
Rebbe Yankel was surprised at the student’s request and said, “You see that chair and that shtender (a piece of furniture that holds a book on top for studying) sitting there? Nothing bothers them. They have no challenges doing their functions. But human beings do, and it must be that way. Overcoming our challenges is what makes our service of God so special. The Torah instructs us to overcome our challenges and temptations, not that we should be people who don’t have temptations and challenges. But I can bless you that you should have more success and that the challenges be decreased.”
Often, when it comes to doing a Mitzvah, our focus is about producing the result, and we resent any hardships which arise in the process. If we experience a snag in our progress or if we endure unexpected difficulties in performing the Mitzvah, we start wishing we did not have to endure the extra pain. What we don’t realize is that we are missing the point! This is what makes the Mitzvah so special! What makes us great is the exertion involved in serving God. The more we have to exert ourselves to perform a Mitzvah, the greater the Mitzvah is and the greater we become.
Instead of feeling resentment, we ought to learn to appreciate the hardships we encounter in doing a Mitzvah as a means to achieve even more greatness. It may be difficult to adopt such a perspective when we encounter obstacles in performing Mitzvos. But with practice, we can learn to change our attitude and view these causes of frustration as opportunities for greater accomplishments. And the more we learn to appreciate the challenges which come our way in serving God, the less frustrated we will be when they arise.
Parshas Chayei Sarah by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (email@example.com)