Vested Interests / Parshas Chayai Sarah
The beauty of our holy Torah shines brightly for all to see in this week's
parsha. We learn about the miraculous way in which a wife was chosen for
Yitzchok (Isaac). Avrohom (Abraham) enjoins his loyal servant Eliezer to
make a trip out of The Land of Canaan to Choron (modern-day Iraq) back to
where Avrohom's family lives. There, he should seek out Avrohom's family and
find a wife for Yitzchok. Eliezer is given very specific instructions, and
even made to swear regarding the execution of the orders. Innocently,
Eliezer asks a seemingly reasonable question. "Perhaps the girl will refuse
to come back with me? Should I bring your son back to your land?" Under no
circumstances was this permitted. The Torah relates the entire episode how
Eliezer arrives in the city of Avrohom's family, stops at the well, and
prays to find the right girl. "The girl who I will ask for a drink, and she
will say 'drink, and I'll give your camels too', she is the girl You have
chosen for my master's son."
After the servant receives an immediate answer to his prayer in
exactly the way he asked, he is welcomed into the home of the girl's family.
Eliezer retells the entire episode to them. There are several small
differences in the retelling of the story, and I would like to focus on one.
When Eliezer asked Avrohom what to do if the girl refuses to return, the
Hebrew word "Ulai", meaning perhaps, spelled Aleph, Vov, Lamed, Yud, is
used. In the repetition, when Eliezer refers to this question he asked
Avrohom, he uses the same word, but the Torah spells it without the Vov.
Written in such a way, it can also be pronounced "ailai", meaning "to me".
The great medieval commentator, Rashi, explains that Eliezer had a selfish
("to me") motive in asking the question. Namely, he had a daughter whom he
would have liked Yitzchok to marry.
Rabbi Dessler, the great thinker, and author of *Michtav MeiEliyahu,
asks the following question. Why did Rashi wait until the retelling of the
story to comment about Eliezer's interest in his daughter marrying Yitzchok?
Why didn't Rashi address the issue the first time the story is told? To this
Rav Dessler gives an answer which should be taught in all schools, and
displayed prominently on every billboard. His answer is based on an
important principle: Selfish interests blind people to the truth. As long as
Eliezer was locked onto the idea that his daughter was the one for Yitzchok,
he could not see that his question to Avrohom was really conjured up to make
Avrohom reconsider, and choose Eliezer's daughter instead. After he
miraculously finds Rivka, and his personal hopes fade away, he is finally
free to recognize the truth; that his statement "perhaps the woman will
refuse" was something which he was actually hoping for. Therefore, Rashi
reveals this issue at the point when Eliezer retells the story; when he
himself finally understood this.
This principle, that it is impossible to see the truth when a
selfish interest gets in the way, applies itself to innumerable aspects of
life. How many times are relationships destroyed by selfish interests which
blind people to the truth of what is best? How many unhealthy relationships
do occur as a result of selfish interests? How many political issues are
obviously driven by selfish interests, and not recognizing what is best? How
many wars could have been avoided by aggressors recognizing their lack of
This principle extends itself to other areas as well. Rabbi Elchonon
Wasserman, of blessed memory, applies this to matters of faith. According to
some commentators one of the commandments is to believe in G-d. Rabbi
Wasserman points out that the requirement to observe commandments begins on
a Torah level at 12 years old for girls, and 13 years old for boys (and
earlier on a Rabbinic level). His question is how is it possible to require
of a child that which great philosophers had difficulty with; belief in G-d?
His question goes further. How can G-d hold people ignorant of His existence
responsible for lack of belief? Again, based on the above principle, he
states that the question is not "how can they be required to believe," but
"how can one not believe?" If you found a watch in the middle of the desert,
you would automatically conclude that someone else has been there. The
universe is infinitely more complicated. Shouldn't we arrive at the
conclusion that SomeOne is there? Indeed, it is easy to believe in a
Designer of the universe, even for young children. Even the ignorant can
recognize it. Why don't people believe? Rabbi Wasserman says it's because
people don't want to believe. Faith is not approached with objectivity.
Selfish priorities blind us to the extent that it is impossible to see even
things which children can be expected to see.
The Torah is truth. In the Torah can be found the knowledge of the
human psyche. From this week's parsha we learn the importance of
objectivity, and recognition of the truth. We learn to question our
motivations, and to have the courage to change directions when the truth
warrants it. May we all merit to be enlightened to the truth!
*Michtav MeiEliyahu is translated into Strive For Truth by Feldheim.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.