Was Rivkah Imeinu “Emotionally Healthy”?

If Rivkah Imeinu was evaluated today, would she pass as emotionally and psychologically healthy? She seems to have lacked what we call today “healthy boundaries” or “personal space.”

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

If Rivkah Imeinu was evaluated today, would she pass as emotionally and psychologically healthy? After all, she went extremely out of her way to help a total stranger, even giving him to drink from her own jug. She seems to have lacked what we call today “healthy boundaries” or “personal space.”

Had Avraham Avinu asked those promoting these modern ideals what they thought of Rivkah, they’d probably diagnose her as emotionally unhealthy—and the shidduch never would have happened. “Her children will not have a healthy sense of self,” they’d argue. “They’ll become doormats!”

Baruch Hashem, it was Eliezer who analyzed her, and the rest is history. For thousands of years, Yidden have been taking a lesson from this story as a paradigm of chessed and the bedrock of our very existence. The act of Kind Little Rivkah [1] secured her position as the mother of the Jewish nation.

Rivkah’s brother Lavan also acted kindly by inviting Eliezer to stay in his home, but notice the nuanced differences between them. Lavan only extended his invitation once he had reason to believe he would receive something in return, while Rivkah gave wholeheartedly to Eliezer without any ulterior motives. Lavan made sure Eliezer knew how hard he had worked preparing the house especially for him, even removing his most prized possessions—his avodah zarah—to accommodate Eliezer. Rivkah, conversely, made Eliezer feel as if all her work was easy and a pleasure.[2]

Whose behaviors do we celebrate, and whose behaviors would the “self” movements celebrate?

My friend recently showed me a post on his Facebook feed from a parenting guru. “SHARING IS NOT CARING.” It was not a joke. Are we rewriting one of the basic tenets of Yiddishkeit? For decades, Jewish preschools have been singing songs such as, “What’s mine is yours I’ll share with you; if you need me I’ll come through.” The new way seems to suggest, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours,” which we know to be midas Sedom.

We teach our children to give and to share. In fact, in last week’s sedra, Hashem said that this is precisely why He loves Avraham Avinu!“Because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of Hashem to perform righteousness and justice.”

Of course, the Torah gives guidelines for how much to give and to know when too much is too much. But they are guidelines, not a foundation.

The choice is ours; we can view the Torah through the lens of modern society, or we can view the trends of modern society through the lens of Torah.

With Hashem’s help, we’ll make the right choices and see nachas from our children, the kind that will make Rivkah Imeinu proud.

[1] The title of a beautiful children’s book by Dina Rosenfeld.

[2] See Seforno and others to Chayei Sarah 24:21.

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