Avraham sent his trusted steward, Eliezer, to find a suitable partner for his son Yitzchak from his ancestral home. Eliezer devised specific criteria that would be the identifying traits of the right candidate – the ideal person would not only look after him but his whole entourage and camels as well.
When Eliezer approached Avraham’s hometown, there were many young women at the local well, one of whom was Rivka. Before any fanfare, introductions, or pleasantries, she drew water for him to drink, and then his thirsty camels, meeting Eliezer’s criteria.
The Midrash teaches us that when Rivka came to the well to draw water, the water rose to meet her, saving her the effort and endorsing her as a special individual.
Taking the Midrash at face value, this is clearly a remarkable young lady. Everyday miracles like that don’t happen every day! Even without Eliezer’s criteria, why wouldn’t a miracle be a good enough sign for him that this is the right person?
R’ Chaim Shmulevitz sharply notes that the fact of a miracle doesn’t speak to your quality as a human. At best, perhaps miracles speak to who you are, but not what you do. Miracles don’t make you a good person – good deeds make you a good person.
R’ Shamshon Raphael Hirsch highlights how Rivka only told Eliezer she would get him some water, and only later, once he had finished, did she say that she would feed the camels as well.
What we do says more than words ever could. Rivka did not promise the great thing she would do; she just went and did them! She helped him, and when he was done, she helped the rest. The story emphasizes that her kindness was performed with haste – she was in a hurry to help as quickly as possible.
We also see Rivka’s class in her blindness to class – Rivka treats Eliezer with dignity and respect when all she knows this stranger is that he introduces himself as a servant and yet still calls him “my lord.”
The only defining quality of a good person is what they do, not who they are.
Actions, not words. Underpromise, over-deliver. Sensitivity to others. Treats ostensibly lower-class people with the dignity any human being deserves. Compassionate to animals. This is the kind heart worthy of the legacy of the house of Avraham.
We don’t experience daily miracles. But miracles have never been what makes us great.
It’s about we do – and that’s up to us.