|Observing Rivka at work using her ayin tova (source)|
by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher | first published here
Both Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabeinu found their spouses at a BE’ER (a well). Eliezer, Avraham’s servant, also met Rivka, Yitzchak’s future wife, at a well. At that event, the Torah first calls the well a BE’ER (Bereshis 24:11). However, in Bereshis 24:42 the Torah calls the well where Eliezer met Rivka AYIN. Why the switch?
The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim informs us that the word AYIN has several different meanings. Sometimes, AYIN means a well, like in our verse about Eliezer and Rivka. In other places AYIN means an eye as in “Leah’s eyes were soft” (Bereshis 29:17).
The word AYIN also means caring and paying attention. As the Torah states, “G‑d’s Eyes are directed to it (Eretz Yisrael) constantly from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12). The Rambam tells us that the word AYIN can also mean to focus, as the verse states, “Everyone’s eyes focused their hopes on You” (Tehillim 145:15).
The Talmud in Tanit 24 states that once a person has determined that a bride’s eyes are appealing, it is unnecessary to investigate anything else about her. What a strange Talmudic statement! The Kli Yakar states that this Talmudic passage cannot be understood literally. For one thing, it is not always true. People can have nice looking eyes and yet not be good looking. Furthermore, is the Talmud really telling us that physically good looking eyes are an indicator of a good moral character??
Therefore, the Kli Yakar explains this perplexing Talmudic passage according to the lesson taught to us by Eliezer. Eliezer needed to find a proper and righteous wife for Yitzchak, someone who possessed the noble character traits fitting to become the Mother of the Jewish People.
So he devised an Eye Test. He rested his camels at the AYIN (well). If the young, perspective bride for Yitzchak would display great CHESED and generosity, it would show that she possessed an AYIN TOVA (a good eye). This means a wise, loving, and generous spirit. Rivka displayed wisdom and incredible grace while selflessly giving of herself for Eliezer and his camels.
Once Eliezer saw that Rivka possessed such an AYIN TOVA at the AYIN (well), he had no need for further investigation into her gracious and wonderful character traits. Thus, the Mishna in Avot 2 states that AYIN TOVA is one of the best paths in life.
|Eliezer, Avraham's servant, praises HQB"H for showing him Yitzhak's future wife (source)|
*Rivka = Rebecca/Rebekah in Hebrew! Also see here.