Holy Hiding

Rivkah finally meets Yitzchak at the end of the Parsha, after Eliezer’s long-winded search. As opposed to glee and excitement for their first encounter, however, Rivkah’s first response is somewhat peculiar. The Torah relates: “[Eliezer] said ‘this is my master (Yitzchak)’, so she took her scarf and covered her face” (24:65). What is the meaning of her covering her face? 

 

The Sforno comments that her covering was the same as another face-covering later in Jewish history: “And Moshe hid his face, for he was afraid to look at Gd” (Shemot 3:6). When Moshe stood by the burning bush and finally realized he was perceiving something holy, his first instinct was to shield himself in humility. The Chizkuni remarks that it was this covering of his face that merited him to have a glowing face -this time of his own holiness- later on, as he came down the mountain at Sinai.

 

Just as Moshe’s humility and reverence expressed itself through hiding his face, so too Rivkah was reverential and respectful before engaging with Yitzchak. Tradition tells us that at that moment Yitzchak was actually in the midst of prayer (Rashi 24:63), which added to Rivkah’s hesitancy and sensitivity. Not-so-coincidentally, we too, in Jewish law, have a similar mandate: ‘One should bow at the entrance (of the shul) towards the Ark’ (Mishneh Brurah 150:10). As the verse says, “I shall bow toward Your Holy Temple in awe of You” (Psalms 5:8).

 

On one level, how a person approaches a given situation can indicate how they may ultimately fulfill their task. While this is certainly true, it may even go a step further. As we learn from Moshe, Rivkah, and our own laws of Prayer, how we approach important events is itself a meritorious service of Hashem. In a culture of instantaneous engagement with the world around us, we sometimes grow numb of the proper respect and reverence to certain situations. Before we pray, study or even engage another person, we should be reminded of not only how to act, but the need to pause, appreciate, and respect the gravity of what we are about to do.