Sometimes while traveling on the highway I encounter heavy traffic; progress is very slow, sometimes everything comes to a complete halt. I realize that I will be late and my plans for the rest of the day will now be disrupted. My car idles or creeps along, but my imagination soars: what if there was some kind of by-pass here, a short-cut; what if my car had wings, or if I was riding on a motorcycle; what if there was a shortening of the way…
“And I came this day to the well, and I said: “Lord G-d of my master Avraham; if You will indeed help me to succeed in the path that I am taking…” (Bereishit 24:42).
“’And I came this day’ – (meaning,) this day I set out and this day I arrived. From here we learn that the ground jumped forward for him. (Rashi).
Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, is sent on a very difficult mission. An almost-impossible one: to find a wife for the son of his master. This is no ordinary matchmaking task: the parents will not meet before the decision is made; neither will the bride and groom. The woman whom Eliezer brings is going to be a wife for Yitzhak. Eliezer accepts Avraham’s absolute certainty that such a woman exists, and that she is to be found in Haran. He does not ask, “What if I don’t find a suitable match?” His only question is whether – if after finding the bride, it turns out that she does not wish to come to Kena’an – Yitzhak may be taken to Haran. Both Avraham and his servant are convinced that the woman exists. But the servant knows that he lacks the ability to find her on his own. He goes off to Haran and leaves the orchestration of the events to the G-d of Avraham: “Lord G-d of my master Avraham; if You will indeed help me to succeed in the path that I am taking…”.
Yaakov is sent to Haran by Rivka, his mother, as he flees for his life. Yaakov goes off into exile, but asks that the Holy One join him. The Divine presence is not an object that can be bundled into a backpack. A person cannot command angels to accompany him. In the dark night, his life threatened, with only a stone to place under his weary head, Yaakov asks: “If the Lord will be with me and guard me on this path that I am taking, and give me bread to eat and a garment to wear, and I return in peace to my father’s home…” (Bereishit 24).
Avishai ben Tzeruyah discovers, in the midst of battle, that the enemy forces have succeeded in closing round about King David, and that the king is in grave danger. Avishai takes his life in his hands and sets off to save his master, the king. He, too, receives Divine assistance – and he is successful.
In three areas we encounter a “shortening of the way”: in finding a spouse, in bringing the Divine presence to dwell in a place, and in battle. These are three tasks that man himself is required to undertake, but his success in these areas lies not in his own hands, but rather in the domain of the Divine
Keeping this in mind, we may see that we, too – in our own generation – have merited to see many “shortenings of the way”. And if we are still on the way, then apparently there are still tasks that await us.