Rabbi Yitzchak Neria
Former Rosh Kollel in Montreal (1999-2002)
This week’s parsha contains the emotional scene where Avraham commands his servant Eliezer – “the elder of his household” (Breishit 24:2) – to travel from Eretz Canaan to Avraham’s old home in order to find a wife for Avraham’s son Yitzchak.
Interestingly, Avraham places full confidence in his servant. Indeed, Eliezer is never told which type of wife to find for Yitzchak. The only condition is that she not be a Canaanite.
Thus, Eliezer sets out on his mission, with so much riding on the outcome. Yet, astonishingly, he does not try to find a suitable wife. Instead, he implements a test – or, more precisely, a game of chance – which is likely to result in failure.
Accordingly, we wonder if Avraham may not have been somewhat misguided when he blindly trusted Eliezer. But before we answer this question, we will pose another one.
In great detail, the Torah describes Eliezer’s encounter with Rivka, the examination, and her nobility and refinement. In fact, the Torah recounts the same story twice. Why? Chazal explain, “The conversation of the Avot’s slaves is more pleasing than the Torah of [their] descendents.” Eliezer’s discussion is more important that the descendents’ halachot and Torah. Therefore, the Torah devotes so much space to this incident.
However, we should note that Chazal stress that Eliezer’s actions are significant because he is Avraham’s servant – “the conversation of the Avot’s slaves.”
We all have a tendency to underestimate others – even our closest family members. Maybe we are so used to our loved ones that we can no longer value their uniqueness. Or, perhaps, we have no other basis for comparison. In any event, with no one to fully appreciate them, many people go through life with their principles and their statures unrecognized and unacclaimed.
But Eliezer views Avraham in an entirely different light – the light of admiration. Eliezer understands that he can learn a lot from Avraham’s actions, deeds, and conduct. Hence, only Eliezer – who knows Avraham so well – has the proper perspective to accurately gauge which girl will serve as the best wife for “his master’s son.” Thus, rather than referring to him as Yitzchak, Eliezer specifically says,
“She is the woman whom Hashem has designated for my master’s son.” (Breishit 24:44)
Furthermore, Eliezer’s test focuses on Rivka’s midat hachessed (loosely translated as the quality of benevolence), which is the primary midah associated with Avraham: “chessed l’Avraham”.