I'll never forget the care package my friend made me when I was in the hospital after my third c-section. The variety of healthy and filling snacks saved me when the hospital staff couldn't locate the kosher food they claimed to have. I was amazed that she had even thought to do it. This was my third c-section, not my first, and I had no idea this was something I needed!

As much as I would love to be a friend like her, able to intuit what others need and deliver on it – I’m not. When a friend has a baby, or is going through a divorce, or is struggling with dating, or sprained an ankle – I want to help, but I'm not the one who will show up unannounced with a casserole. Even making a phone call can be daunting. (What if she’s finally sleeping? What if she gets annoyed that people keep badgering her with pity calls?) I love gift registries and meal trains; I’m paralyzed without them. I need to be asked or I won’t know what to give, even if I want to.

Does this mean I’m not a kind, giving person?

I’ve worried about that over the years, especially when confronted by friends who do this “helping” thing so much better than I do.

The story of Rebecca, our matriarch, yields an answer.

Why not look for the girl who will offer him a drink without being asked?

Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, has been sent to find a wife for his master’s son, and contrives a test to identify the perfect girl: “The girl who I ask, ‘please pour your pitcher, so I may drink’ and she says, ‘drink, and I will also give drink to your camels’ – she is the one You have indicated for your servant, for Isaac.” (Genesis 24:14) And when Rebecca shows up and plays out the scene just as he’d hoped, it is precise down to that detail: he asks for water and then she hurries to give it to him.

Now, if the whole point is to find someone who is a standout in kindness, why should Eliezer have to ask? Why not look for the girl who, when she sees a stranger who has obviously been traveling, will offer him a drink without being asked?

I believe the answer is simple: we can’t expect people to read our minds. Sometimes we need to speak up and ask, and the fact that we had to ask doesn’t detract from the giver’s kindness or concern. If I don’t offer to pick something up at the supermarket for you, it’s not because I don’t want to; I just didn’t realize you need something. The defining measure of chesed, kindness, isn’t: Did the person think of doing something nice? Rather, the question is: How will he or she respond when asked?

The sort of good, kind person Eliezer wanted to find was the one who, once informed of a need, would see it to the end. Rebecca didn’t have to intuit a need in order to be that kind person. She just had to deliver, gladly and fully, once asked.

The Torah is teaching us not only to emulate Rebecca’s kindness, but to emulate Eliezer's asking as well.

Asking for help can be hard, but perhaps will be easier if we realize it is actually a kindness in itself. I’m great at asking my husband for help, and he’s great at giving it – but I get frustrated when he doesn’t share his own needs because then I don’t know how to give to him. While keeping one’s own needs to oneself seems like an act of extreme selflessness and kindness, it can deny the other person the opportunity to be kind too.

How often do we hear of people who felt neglected by their communities in a time of need, who maybe even rejected their communities in turn, when perhaps the community just didn’t realize the need?

We might resist asking for help because we’d like to be the caring, selfless ones who don’t demand anything from others. Or simply because we don’t want to impose or to seem needy; there are lots of very understandable reasons. But we should also remember that asking is giving, too. It gives others the opportunity to help, to do a mitzvah, to show their love, to develop into the giving people they might really want to be if they only knew how.