Parshas Chayei Sarah
Setting A Good Example
By Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden
In relating the mission of Avraham's servant Eliezer to find a wife for
Yitzchak (Isaac), the Torah's narrative (Beraishis/Genesis 24) is
excessively lengthy and repetitive. The events are told as they unfold and
then repeated when Eliezer recounts the events to the family of the bride
to be, Rivka (Rebecca). Rashi, quoting Midrash Raba (60:8), explains (v.
42), "The ordinary conversation of the Patriarchs' servants are more
pleasing before G-d than even the teachings of their children, for
Eliezer's full account of his journey is recorded in the Torah, whereas
many important halachic principles are derived only from textual
allusions." Why is this so? What is so special about these interactions?
Rabbi Aharon Kotler (1) expounds that for the derivation of the many legal
principles of the Torah, our Sages were given specific parameters within
the oral tradition of how to extract the various laws and their details.
It is, therefore, enough for the Torah to allude to the principles,
avoiding verbosity, knowing they will be understood. However, if one is to
learn proper Jewish conduct and ethics, a list of laws does not suffice.
The code of appropriate human interaction is contingent on myriad
variables that change in different situations. One must develop a
sensitivity, set deep in the heart, to know the proper response for any
given situation. Essential to this process is the careful observation of
those who have achieved character refinement; profound understanding will
be inculcated by the real-life examples.
To appreciate the numerous lessons in character refinement and proper
interaction taught in this chapter of the Torah (2), the Torah needs to
provide, at length, the background and context in which the events
transpired. Thus, we are taught the proper conduct in any given context.
We are a nation charged with embodying the will and message of G-d. Thus,
part of our mission is to be an example of proper conduct, morality, and
character refinement. How do we become such a people? We must observe and
learn from the examples of our forefathers and Sages and find, in their
example, an understanding of proper character that will guide us in all
situations in our lives.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) 1892-1962; Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Kletzk, Poland and founder of Beth
Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey
(2) This section of Eliezer's search for a wife for Yitzchak is full of
numerous great lessons.
A. Eliezer's appreciation of the most important character for a wife
and matriarch of the Jewish people - kindness.
B. Rivka, although she knew she would offer to bring water for the
camels, did so only after Eliezer finished drinking. She understood that
it is uncomfortable to accept too much kindness all at once.
C. Eliezer's humility that, although he was in charge of all of
Avraham's great wealth, introduced himself simply, "I am Avraham's
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden
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