What Came First? by Rabbi Yaakov Blau


A curious detail emerges from the story of Eliezer first meeting Rivkah. In BeReshit 24:22, he gives her several pieces of jewelry, and only in Pasuk 23 does he ask who she is. It would seem unusual that he would give something so valuable to a total stranger. The issue is compounded later on in the Parashah, when Eliezer retells the story of his meeting Rivkah to her family. There, in Pasuk 47, he claims that he first asked who she was and only then gave her the valuables. The Mepharshim deal with the issue differently, and their approaches reveal a broader understanding of how they interpret Tanach.

Rashi (24:23 s.v. VaYomer Bat Mi At) says that Eliezer has so much faith that she will be the right wife for Yitzchak that he is willing to give her the jewelry before even knowing who she actually is. However, Eliezer realizes that saying as much to Rivkah's family would not be taken well, so when he retells the story, he switches the order (Rashi 24:47 s.v. VaEsh’al).

The Ibn Ezra in Shemot 19:9 discusses, as he does many times in Tanach, his idea of the “Vav HaZman,” that in Tanach the letter "Vav" ought to be translated as "and this had transpired previously."  He quotes several examples, one of which comes from our Pesukim. He believes that Eliezer asks Rivkah who she is before giving her jewelry and that Pasuk 23 ought to be understood as "and he had already asked her" who she was. With that understanding, there is no discrepancy between the two accounts of the story, since the order of Eliezer’s retelling of the story in Pasuk 47 is the accurate one.

A similar Machloket appears towards the end of the Parashah. 24:64 seems to imply that when Rivkah first sees Yitzchak, she falls off her camel even before discovering that the person she sees is Yitzchak. Rashi explains that Yitzchak's countenance is so overwhelming that just seeing him makes Rivkah fall, even before knowing who he is. The Ibn Ezra, however, assumes once again that the "Vav" is a Vav HaZman, that when Pasuk 65 says “VaTomer … Mi HaIsh HaLaZeh,” “She [asks]… ‘Who is this man?’” it means "she already asked," and she falls off because she is about to meet her future husband.

This is a good example of Mepharshim being "LeShitatam," meaning that they have similar, consistent approaches to different Pesukim. It is also an opportunity to understand the Ibn Ezra's approach more broadly, as his idea of Vav HaZman is one that he employs many times throughout Tanach.

Family and Community: Avraham Avinu as a Paradigm by Shmuel Bak

Hashem’s Physical Manifestations by Eli Schloss