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After Laban and Bethuel heard Abraham' servant's story leading to his meeting with Rebecca, they responded with:
This has come from G-d… Here is Rebecca, take her and go! Let her marry (Isaac)… (24:50-51)
The servant brought out silver, gold, and garments and gave them to Rebecca, and delicious fruits to her brother and her mother… they ate and they drank… (24:53-54)
But then family members attempted delaying tactics…
"Let her stay with us a year or ten months; afterwards she may go" (24:55)
The Alshich explains that the family because less enthusiastic when they saw that the bulk of the large slice of Abraham's wealth brought by the servant was to go to Rebecca - and not to them. Rebecca, the text indicates, got the gold and the silver, and the family had to make do with the fancy refreshments. It shows that they cared less about the financial security of their daughter, than their own selfish interests. They through they take would get a nice cut out the business. They did not.
Indeed, there are two types of gifts one can give. One type of gift has a subtext of wealth. The more expensive it is, the more welcome it is. The other type has a subtext of style, subtleness, and thoughtfulness. It may not be worth that much, but it carries a message which money cannot. It quietly whispers "I chose it for you, specially".
When Jacob reluctantly let Benjamin go down to Egypt as a condition of releasing Simeon from captivity, he told his sons to "take some of the this land's specialties and give it to the man; a little balm, a little honey, special spices, lotus, pistachios, and almonds" (43:11), Rashi points out that these commodities were not readily available in Egypt, so they would be special gifts - something out of the ordinary, measured by the thought behind the gift rather than their commercial value.
(I remember from my dating days: I took a young lady out to an expensive restaurant and brought her one flower. Yes - just one flower, nicely wrapped up with a ribbon. The meal was of little interest, but she never forgot the flower…)
The servant's mistake was misreading Rebecca's family. People who are refined prefer the subtle gift. (As I'm writing this, I just received an invitation to my Auntie Hannah's 90th birthday party, with the words: "No gifts please, by request. The only present our mother desires is your presence". That is indeed refinement). In contrast, those who are greedy in that situation spurn the gift with the thought, and go for the bottom line "how much money am I going to get out of that".
As King David put it, in a different context:
'With the pious, You treat piously…
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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Also by Jacob Solomon:
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