The first couple to ever date on the page are Yitzchak (Isaac) and Rivkah (Rebecca). Sure, there are other important couples listed in the Torah before them, but we don’t get any of the juicy details. Avraham (Abraham) first appears in the Torah at 99 years old and already long past bachelorhood. Sara has been at his side through thick and thin. Before that we have Adam and Chava (Eve), but they’re something of a different story. (Can you really call being taken from your future husband’s side “dating”?)
So when Avraham instructs his faithful servant Eliezer to go and find his son Yitzchak a wife, we’re all ears. How exactly was Eliezer supposed to do this?
For one thing, Avraham, Sara and their only son were the first monotheists in human history. Try finding a girl to keep up with that one. Secondly, leaving all philosophical issues aside, idolaters were a nasty lot. Would you want to marry someone who probably engaged in human sacrifice? Neither would I.
Nonetheless, Eliezer sets off on mission impossible, finding a wife for Yitzchak, and we’re all on the edge of our camels. I mean, our seats.
Eliezer’s first move provides us with a great piece of dating advice: get out of the starting gate! If you want to connect with a quality person, you must go to a quality location. Avraham makes Eliezer swear that he will not bring Yitzchak a potential spouse from the degraded women of Canaan but from the somewhat more cultured women of Aram Naharaim.
Now, tell me, why does 99% of the western world think that they will find true love in a bar? Or sitting at home staring at a screen in their living room? Eliezer gets out there, but not out anywhere. He goes to a location where nice people are actually likely to be found. Good trick, that one.
Later, Eliezer arrives in Aram Naharaim and does the next most important thing that any human being can do to find a wonderful spouse: he prays. Eliezer turns to the Almighty for help! The Midrash says that bringing couples together is as great a miracle as the splitting of the sea and this parasha shows that Yitzchak and Rivkah were no exception. It isn’t easy to find the right one, and we all need God’s help. Eliezer asks for it.
The third step that Eliezer takes is equally essential. Before going out to seek the man or woman of your dreams, you have to have some sort of picture of what it is that you want to find. Eliezer comes up with a terrific way to recognize the right person for him. After all, you can’t find it if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
For example, if kindness is important to you, how will you figure out whether your date is kind? What does kindness look like? What does a kind person do? Don’t go in blind. You might miss what you are looking for, or worse, think that you have found it when all you see is a chemistry-fueled projection.
Nobody to Impress
Eliezer is a man with a plan. He knows what he is looking for and also knows how to test for it: ask for help and see who comes forward.
But the genius in Eliezer’s plan was that it did not hinge on showmanship. Plenty of young swains are eager to show off how smart, sweet, and charming they are for a girl they are trying to impress, and the same applies to the ladies. However, Eliezer was in a unique position. Eliezer was nobody to impress. He was just some guy with a bunch of camels.
What we can learn from this aspect of Eliezer’s dating wisdom is that you don’t want to watch how your date treats you, you want to watch how your date treats the people he is not trying to impress. Watch how she responds when a beggar approaches her for change. Watch how he speaks to the waiter. See whether he says thank you to the person filling up his tank at the gas station.
The reason this matters more than all the flowers and chocolates is because, once the courtship is over, you will be the person that he or she is no longer trying to impress. You will be the person who is treated either with common courtesy or with callousness. Romance only has the potential to last forever where there is a foundation of decency to uphold it.
So when Eliezer sees Rivkah, he springs into action:
The servant ran towards her and said, “Let me sip, if you please, a little water from your jug.”
She said, “Drink, my lord, and quickly she lowered her jug to her hand and gave him drink.
When she finished giving him drink, she said, “I will draw water even for your camels until they have finished drinking.” So she hurried and emptied her jug into the trough and kept running to the well to draw water; and she drew for all his camels. (Genesis-Beraishis 24:17-20)
Now, do you have any idea how much water camels drink? They drink a lot. Apparently a single camels can drink between thirty to fifty gallons of water at one time, or as much as 200 liters a day.
To put this into perspective, your typical individually sized bottled water holds half a liter. Your average family-sized coke bottle holds a liter and a half. Are you beginning to get a picture of what 200 liters looks like?
All this to say that not only was Rivkah kind but she must have also been in great shape to lug all that water. We can only imagine how long it all took her. And this wasn’t just one camel, it was several. And she was doing all this voluntarily out of the kindness of her heart. She wasn’t trying to impress anyone.
Pretty incredible. But not enough.
Think Before You Act
It is the next verse that tells what might be the most important part of the story:
The man was astonished at her, reflecting silently to know whether Hashem had made his journey successful or not. (ibid 21)
The best dating advice you can get comes straight from the source: think. Torah demonstrates that even when you’re out with the most impressive person you have ever met, you have to actually think about what you are seeing and feeling. After all, if you “fall” in love, it’s just as easy to “fall” out of love. Building a lasting and meaningful relationship means making conscious choices.
Eliezer may have been wildly impressed by Rivkah’s extraordinary kindness, but he did not let himself get carried away by his emotions. Instead, he thought about it. He “reflected silently” in order to come to an intelligent decision whether to move forward or not.
If this was the only thing that the same bar-attending 99% of the population changed about their dating habits right now, believe me when I tell you that the divorce rate would plummet. People don’t think! They act on impulse and passion and later find themselves hurt, frustrated, and disappointed. Eliezer dated right because even when his emotions were ready to sweep him away, he decided to think before he acted.
The beauty of dating smart is that when you’re right, you’re usually very right. Luckily for Avraham, Sara and Yitzchak, Rivkah was the real deal. Her kindness carried through to provide lodging for Eliezer, his aids, and his camels. Agreeing to come back to Canaan to meet Yitzchak, the couple met, married, and became the next link in a chain that reaches to Eternity.
And we can all live happily ever after.
Based on Parasha U’Pishra by Rabbi Moshe Grylak
By Braha Bender