When Avraham’s servant Eliezer went east to his master’s homeland to seek a wife for Yitzchak, he did not end up meeting her in a restaurant, at a communal celebration, or even in her home. The Torah says that Rivkah actually came out with her jug on her shoulder to draw water, and that’s when she encountered Eliezer. Why was she drawing water? A casual reading of the text could lead one to think that she was merely helping out with the household chores. An incidental point that the Torah mentions later on in the parasha shows that there must have been more involved.
After Rivkah’s family decides to send her with Eliezer to become Yitzchak’s bride, the Torah records that she did not leave home alone. “Rivkah arose with her maidens; they rode upon the camels” (Bereishit 24). The fact that Rivkah departed with her maiden-servants suggests that she did not come from a poor family. Now, if her family had servants, why did she have to draw the water herself? Why did she have to bother doing this labor-intensive chore
It seems that Rivkah’s water drawing may have actually had great significance and been part of her uniqueness. R. Avigdor Miller (1908 – 2001) writes that the real reason Rivkah personally drew the water was that it was a natural outgrowth of her refined character. She was just not lazy in any way. Why, Rivkah rhetorically asked herself, should she allow a servant to do something she could do herself? That’s why she personally left the house “with her jug on her shoulder” to fetch water. Maidens? Who needs maidens to fetch water? Not Rivkah, evidently. She didn’t have to contemplate whether or not to do this chore – she just did it reflexively.
This idea suggests a broader approach to good character than we might typically envision. It is significant that Rivkah’s alacrity was not alluded to when Rivkah was praying, studying wisdom, or even performing acts of Chesed. It was alluded to when she was doing something completely mundane and ordinary. A person could follow an approach to spirituality, religion, or character-building that allows him to act, think and feel however he wishes while involved in ordinary day-to-day life situations; extra sensitivity or spiritual attitudes and feelings only need to be activated and turned on in a particularly spiritual moment or situation. Rivkah teaches us a different approach. We can be sure that if Rivkah wasn’t lazy about drawing and schlepping water in a jug, she certainly wasn’t lazy about the truly important things in life. Rivkah’s lesson is the need for consistency; if we want to act virtuously, we cannot expect to be able to flip on that ability like a switch. It must be part of us through and through. When our own opportunities to “draw water and schlep our jugs” arise, we may be tempted to let habit take over. If we will consistently follow Rivkah’s example, we will be confident that when an important opportunity arises we will be able to rise to the occasion.