Parshas Chayei Sarah
Volume 5 Issue 5
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
When Avraham seeks a wife for his son Yitzchak, he called no one other than
his trusted loyal servant, Eliezer. Eliezer was one of the primary
soldiers, aiding Avraham during his battle to rescue Lot. Eliezer was
considered by Avraham to be his heir apparent until Hashem informed him of
the forthcoming birth of Yitzchak. Eliezer was nicknamed the one who drew
and watered from his master's Torah. Simply put, the Torah constantly
informs us that Eliezer was Avraham's right-hand-man.
Before sending Eliezer, the Torah tells us that "Avraham told his servant,
the elder of his household, who was in complete charge of every one of
Avraham's possessions, to swear that he would not take a girl from Canaan
for Yitzchak. Eliezer swore in the name of Hashem, the Master of the heaven
and the earth " (cf. Genesis 24:3).
Avraham instructed his most trusted aid to get the proper shidach (mate)
for Yitzchak. He was to go back to Avraham's hometown. The girl had to
come from the right family. She must have been raised in the proper
environment. And Avraham warned Eliezer that Yitzchak was not to leave the
Land of Canaan. His charge was forceful. He made his trusted servant
swear. He used strong language. "Be careful - watch out! Lest you bring
my son there!" (Genesis 24:6)
The Torah's reiteration of Eliezer's domestic position in this context is
perplexing. Isn't the juxtaposition - the glorifying of Eliezer's position
as " the elder of his household, who was in complete charge of every one of
Avraham's possessions "contradictory with the severe scrutiny and pressure
that Avraham placed on him in reference to Yitzchak's matrimonial
requirements? If Avraham trusted Eliezer for his entire worldly
possessions, why did he make him swear in this instance? And if he had to
swear in regard to Yitzchak, then why define him here as "the elder of his
household, who was in complete charge of every one of Avraham's
possessions"? Isn't the fact that he had to swear, obvious evidence that
he, in fact, was not in charge?
Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin of Salant, the founder of the mussar movement, once
stayed at an inn. The inn was quite crowded and the innkeeper realized
that he was low on meat. Seeing a distinguished and pious-looking Jew with
a beard, the innkeeper approached Reb Yisrael.
"Are you perhaps a shochet? You see, I am running low on meat and I must
slaughter a cow." Reb Yisrael was taken aback. "I would love to help," he
stammered, "but unfortunately I am not a ritual slaughterer."
The next morning Rabbi Lipkin approached the innkeeper. "I have a
tremendous business opportunity. If you were to invest a few hundred
rubles with me, I can guarantee a nice return."
The man looked quizzically at the rabbi. "Reb Yid," he stammered. "I
hardly know you! How do you expect me to invest with you? Give me a few
references, and as many days, and let me check out the deal in its
entirety. Then we can meet and I'll make my decision."
"Aha!" Exclaimed the great mussar luminary. "Just yesterday, you were
about to trust me with the ritual slaughter of your cow. You were going to
feed you guests with that meat based on the appearance of my frock and
beard. Nevertheless, you would not invest a few rubles on those same
grounds. Shouldn't one treat his spiritual skepticism on the same level as
his financial uncertainties?"
The Be'er Mayim Chayim explains: the Torah specifically states, in the
context of Avraham's admonitions, that Eliezer "was the elder of Avraham's
household, who was in complete charge of every one of Avraham's possessions."
When buying stocks and bonds, when investing in real estate, when
purchasing appliances or furniture, Eliezer had free reign. Yet when it
came to Yitzchak's future that esteem was not enough. Avraham made Eliezer
swear in the name of Hashem that he would bring a suitable wife for
Yitzchak. Avraham's concern for spirituality and his future were by no
means on the same level as those he had for his mundane needs. True,
Eliezer was in complete charge of every one of Avraham's possessions. But
when it came to Avraham's future, when it came to spiritual decisions, even
Eliezer was suspect. For when it comes to your spiritual needs, your sole
trustee can never become your soul trustee.
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Dedicated in memory of Roberta Katz by Shmuel and Goldie Katz
L'iluy Nishmas Alta Chaya Rasha bas Mordechai of blessed memory
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
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