Shabbat Hayei-Sarah 5783

Long before When Harry Met Sally became an American classic, the Torah has another story of a couple’s first encounter. This week, near the end of Parshat Hayei-Sarah, Rivkah meets Yitzhak. And she has quite the reaction when she does. Or does she?
Where Yitzhak, wandering in the field just before nightfall, sees camels, Rivkah sees a man. What happens next depends on which translation you adopt. Here’s the JPS version:
“She alighted from the camel, and said to the servant, ‘Who is that man walking in the field toward us?’ And the servant said, ‘That is my master.’ So she took her veil and covered herself” (Genesis 24:64-65).
The word “alight,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, means “to descend from a train, bus, or other form of transport.” It seems to be a rather voluntary act, full of intention. We get off at our destination willingly. But the Hebrew word is vatipol, and the root of this verb, n-p-l, often means “fall.” Most falls are unintentional. So did Rivkah dismount her camel, or did she fall off? And if the latter, why?
The answer matters if we are to understand the mindset of our second matriarch, and on Shabbat morning, we will consult her spiritual descendants–namely, women who take charge of their destinies.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise
Candle lighting: 4:16 PM
Torah Reading: Genesis 23:1-25:18
Haftarah: I Kings 1:1-31