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"Gone Fishin!"

11/12/2020 01:16:17 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In this week’s parashah, Parashat Chayye Sarah, we read the following: “And it was when the camels had finished drinking that the man took a golden nose ring weighing a beka, and two gold bands for her arms, ten shekalim in weight.  “Pray, tell me,” he said, “whose daughter are you?  Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”  She replied, “I am the daughter of Betuel, the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nachor.” (Breysheet 24:22-23) The question asked is why did Eliezer (“the man”) give these items to Rivkah before he verified her identity?  How was he so sure that she was the righteous bride who was intended to become Yitzchak’s wife?  We find the answer in the following parable:

The Princess was the King’s only child.  She was as beautiful as the harvest moon.  Her modesty and her impeccable character were all the more admirable in the light of her superb intellect.  She was fully learned in languages, literature, and sciences.  Yet, this exquisite rose had one long thorn: she refused to consider any of the outstanding marriage proposals that her father received on her behalf.  The bewildered King confronted his daughter: “Dearest, do you have any doubt that I have anything other than your absolute welfare at heart?  Why do you refuse every single marriage proposal?”  She answered, “Your Majesty, my beloved Father, please do not think that I am an ingrate.  My entire vitality depends on the portion of fresh fish that I eat of Shabbos.  I derive nourishment from nothing else.  (It just so happened that the Princess was always sickly during the winter months when the fish left the frigid waters of the kingdom and swam south to the warm waters of the great ocean.) I cannot commit to any marriage proposal unless my husband-to-be is capable of providing me with a fresh fish for each Shabbos of the year.”

 The King acted immediately.  It was then midwinter when the waters of the kingdom were frozen.  There was not a fresh fish to be found in the entire kingdom.  At such times as this, the Princess was her pale and melancholy self.  The King announced that whoever would bring the best and largest fresh fish to the palace by the coming Shabbos (only 5 days away!) would win the hand of the princess.  The King’s announcement became the talk of the entire kingdom.  Everyone had an opinion or a comment.  Who could possibly pull a fresh fish out of the kingdom’s chilly waters in the middle of February?  How could the King prefer the son of a fisherman to the son of a nobleman?  The fishermen wondered how they could catch what the Princess wanted when it was a two-week round-trip to the great ocean and back when Shabbos was only five days away.

It just so happened that in the highlands of the kingdom lived a simple shepherd who spent most of his time alone tending to his flocks.  When the King’s proclamation reached him, he wondered how he, a simple shepherd, could find fresh fish in the middle of winter.  The shepherd had an artesian well near his modest cabin from which he drew the clear and refreshing waters that he needed to sustain himself and his flocks.  The afternoon after hearing of the King’s proclamation, he was drawing water from the well for his flocks.   He took a moment to gaze at the beautiful red and gold sunset.  The breathtaking spectacle inspired the young shepherd to sing a melodious song of praise to the Ribbono shel Olam (“Master of the Universe”).  Completely entranced by the setting sun, he forgot what he was doing, that is until such time that he raised the rope-tied wooden bucket from the well.  It seemed heavier than usual, and much to his surprise he found a large rainbow-colored fish splashing and wiggling inside the bucket.  He immediately praised the Creator for his miraculous good fortune, carefully wrapped the fish, and raced off to the palace.

No one in the palace had ever seen such a remarkable fish in the middle of the winter.  But the King had one reservation: could the young shepherd secure such a fish every single week?  The shepherd shrugged his shoulders and told the King that he had made no effort whatsoever to catch the fish and added that he could not make such a promise to produce the same result each week.  Furthermore, he told the King that had not come to the palace to ask for the hand of the Princess in marriage.  He merely wanted to please the King by presenting him with this beautiful fish.  Enamored with the shepherd’s selflessness and simplicity, the King said, “Come with me.  We shall go for a walk together.” With that, the King, the Princess, and their entourage took the shepherd to the bank of the frozen river not far from the palace.  The ice was filled with holes where many citizens were trying to catch fish.  Suddenly, everywhere the shepherd walked, fish began jumping out of the holes in the ice.  Within moments, a ten-pound carp jumped right into the shepherd’s arms!  “Yes, Father!” exclaimed the Princess with glee. “He is my intended!  I will marry the shepherd!”  The King nodded in royal agreement and approval.

When Rivkah approached the well to draw water for Eliezer and his camels, our Tradition tells us that the water in the well rose to meet her just like it did for Eliezer’s master, Avraham.  With this, Eliezer thus knew Rivkah was the truly righteous woman who was meant to become the wife of Avraham’s son Yitzchak. He therefore gave her the precious jewelry items.  And the rest is our history.

May we all be like Rivkah in that we maintain the same strong ties with both our ancestors and our Tradition so that we, too, will receive the precious gifts promised to us by HaShem because we are H-s betrothed.  

Sun, March 7 2021 23 Adar 5781