Over the past several decades the roles of both men and women in contemporary society have shifted dramatically leaving both genders in the midst of an identity crisis that simply did not exist in earlier generations. So many people today unfortunately caught up in this generational “tug of war”, are finding it more and more difficult to understand and appreciate their purpose and position in this world.
The Torah provides for us in this weeks Parsha Chayei Sarah an invaluable insight within the story of the (shiduk) engagement between Yitzchak Avinu and his wife to be, Rivka. It came to pass that our forefather Avraham Aveinu sent his servant Eliezer to Avraham’s relatives seeking a wife for Yitzchak. Hashem guided Eliezer and gave him the opportunity to observe Rivka’s extraordinary (midos) character and good deeds (ma’asim tovim) through her altruistic act of chesed. It was her very selfless act of kindness that allowed Eliezer to understand that he had found that unique neshama who would be the appropriate bride for Yitzchak. In anticipation of this eventuality, Avraham had sent with him special gifts for the kallah and her family to consummate this stage of the(shiduk) marriage proposal.
The gifts given over to Rivka were a golden ring called a nezem, and two arm bracelets (Chayei Sarah, 24:22.), therefore there is to endeavor to deepen our understanding of the profound symbolism that lies within these gifts. Since our Torah is an eternal document for all times and all places, these pieces of jewelry are as much a gift for the Jewish woman of today, as they were for Rivka (Imainu) our matriarch in that they are capable of offering insights that can help to rejuvenate and revitalize each women’s connection with her proper role even in the midst of our spiritually troubled and discordant times.
The words and actions of righteous Jewish woman emanate from the neshama, the soul which is rooted in a very pristine place deep within. Is it then any wonder that the gift for Rivka was a – nezem – a ring which was used in the place which is the gateway for the entry of the soul – the place where the Creator breathed the soul of life into Adam (Bereishes 2:7).
Our Holy Torah, through this parsha, takes this opportunity to realign material and spiritual values thereby closing the gap between them, teaching each women the secret of seamlessly blending within herself a life of holiness that incorporates softness and strength, kindness and discipline, generosity and restraint. It is authority that is most effectively expressed in the absence of overt power – by innuendo rather than by confrontation. For all its subtlety don’t think for a moment that it lacks purpose, direction or strength. It is the antibiotic camouflaged in the spoonful of ice cream. It is pure empathetic compassion, objectified, tempered by practicality, seasoned by good judgment and used for the purpose of nurturing and healing those souls given over to her care.
This ring has within it a further message that connects the past with the present in that it had the weight of a (beka) a half –shekel– and that too is significant. Each Jew was required to give a half shekel gift, a one time gift for the building of the Mishkan as well as a yearly donation of this amount to be used for the communal sacrifices. (Ki Sisa: 30:13; Shekalim, 1:1; Megillah 29b).
The gift of the half shekel was one that every Jew was required to contribute toward the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. It was dedicated to the adonim — the silver sockets that held the boards which formed the walls of the Mishkan. These sockets are the foundation of the walls of Mishkan, where we made our home with Hashem, even as the woman is the foundation of the home she establishes with her husband.
Eliezer also gave Rivka two arm bracelets weighing ten golden shekels. The two arm bracelets represent the two tablets of the law; and their weight of ten shekels symbolizes the Ten Commandments. (Chaya Sara, 24:22, Rashi). The ring and the golden bracelets are both, being circular, suggestive of the fact each woman is able to complete the connection of the Torah with this world through becoming a conduit using her unique energy that is provided by her holy soul and binding it with the performance of good deeds and acts of kindness. Through these works of (chesed) kindness every woman is able to greatly rectify this world as a emissary of Hashem through her home and hearth thereby allowing a holy dwelling place for the (Shekina) Divine presence.