Jewelry is Never Just Jewelry

Question of the week:

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

In your program, Ancient Jewish Wisdom, “Our Culture,” how did Rebekah know that the jewelry represented the ten commandments when they had not been given yet?

Thank you,


Hi Leah,

Thanks for giving us a chance to expand on our words. For those who haven’t seen that episode of the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show, we explained that numbers in the Bible are not random. Each number has an ancient Jewish wisdom association. This is one of the reasons that a song sung at the end of the Passover Seder that is referenced frequently as a ‘children’s song’ is actually one of the most sophisticated parts of the Seder, the formal program of Passover. It lists the numbers 1-13 and associates each number with a vital part of the faith. Technically, the song could go on and on; it ends at 13 only because the night must draw to a close.

In the song, ten is a shortcut reference to the Ten Commandments and two is a shortcut to the two tablets on which they were engraved. When Abraham’s servant Eliezer meets Rebekah at the well and gives her two gold bracelets that weigh ten shekel (units of currency), we could read the verses, as indeed we can read all of the Bible, on its simplest level. Eliezer is gifting Rebekah with jewelry. However, that is only the first level of understanding.

On a deeper level, we must ask ourselves how would a girl like Rebekah accept a proposal of marriage on behalf of a man she has never met? The only way the story is credible would be if Eliezer were able to present her with a big, fat, one-thousand-page contract in which were detailed all possible circumstances of married life and how every issue will be decided and resolved. This, of course, is impossible. But what Eliezer was able to do was present her with an outline of the Ten Commandments and how their essential truths can be applied to almost all of life’s circumstances. Basically, he was saying, “Look here, Rebekah, your future husband will always act in accordance with these principles and in obedience to the God who wrote them. You will be marrying a genuinely noble man. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

When we try to visualize the Bible as if it were a television screen, we often do a disservice to a mature contemplation of it. (We discuss this idea in Scrolling through Scripture Unit 1 and expand further in Unit 2 that we will be releasing soon.) Yes, Eliezer did present her with these specific pieces of jewelry. On a deeper level, Eliezer is transmitting the ideas that will be encapsulated in the two tablets—the Ten Commandments given on Mt. Sinai. Abraham had no need for these ideas to be formalized—he understood them without their being spelled out. But the underlying concepts on how to relate to God and to Abraham’s fellow human beings were integral to his life. This is what Eliezer is passing on to Rebekah so that she may choose whether she wishes to join his family and marry Isaac. (If you are interested in having a broader picture of these concepts, we encourage you to listen to our audio CD, The Ten Commandments: How Two Tablets Can Transform Your Life.)

Thanks for watching, Leah, and for giving us the opportunity to expand on our words,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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