"The servant [Eliezer] took ten camels from his master’s camels…"
The Torah mentions specifically that these camels belonged to Eliezer’s
master. Rashi explains that they were clearly recognizable as belonging to
Avraham. Since Avraham was always meticulously careful to avoid stealing
in any form, he took special care to muzzle each of his camels to prevent
them eating from fields belonging to others. Anyone who saw these camels
recognized this “trademark” of Avraham, who would have nothing to do with
theft, even through his animals (1).
Was there really a need for Avraham to muzzle his camels? Rav Pinchas
ben Yair’s donkey refused to eat stolen food, for God makes sure that no
transgressions occur because of a righteous person – not even through his
animals (2). Avraham, the progenitor of the entire Jewish nation,
certainly was not wanting in righteousness. Why would he have worried that
some act of theft might come about through his camels (3)?
Although Avraham’s extreme dedication to honesty kept him away from
forbidden acts, he did not want to rely on his own righteousness. Avraham
took nothing for granted; on the contrary, he employed every possible
precaution to safeguard himself from sin. He would not place himself in a
situation that held even the slightest possibility that sin might result.
All the more so he did not depend on the nature of his camels; therefore
he was not willing to assume that they would not steal (4).
Rav Yisrael Salanter once visited an acquaintance of his who was a wealthy
banker. The banker was sitting at his table counting money when he looked
out of the window and saw Rav Yisrael in the distance. Realizing that Rav
Yisrael would soon be in his home, the banker went to change his clothes
so that he would be able to greet the Rav with the honor that was due him.
When Rav Yisrael arrived, the banker’s servant invited him into the house
but, seeing a large sum of money on the table, Rav Yisrael remained
Several minutes later the banker entered the room and, seeing Rav Yisrael
standing outside, asked him why he had not come in. Rav Yisrael explained:
The Gemara states that only a minority of people commit immoral acts;
nevertheless the Torah forbids a man to be secluded with a woman because
it might lead him to transgress. The same Gemara states that most people
transgress in monetary matters (5). It should be obvious to us then, said
Rav Yisrael, that no one should allow himself to be secluded with someone
1. Rashi on Bereshith 24:10.
2. Chulin 5b.
3. Sifthei Chachamim on Bereshith 24:10.
4. Rabbeinu Yerucham, Da’ath Torah, p. 154.
5. Bava Bathra 165a.