Parshas Chayei Sarah
On Whose Account?
This week, the Torah tells us the fascinating story of Eliezer's mission to
find a wife for Yitzchok, his master Avraham's son. Eliezer was referred to
in previous portions as one who drew from the teachings of his master.
In order to accomplish his mission, Eliezer must interact. First he must
meet the prospective bride, Rivka, then her parents, Bsu'el and Milkah, and
then Rivka's conniving brother Lavan.
The Torah spares no effort to describe at length the ordeal of choosing the
bride, Throughout the narrative, Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, is
referred to in different ways. Sometimes he is called the "servant of
Avraham," other times he is called, just plainly, "the servant, “and other
times he is "the man." First he gives Rivka gifts: “And it was, when the
camels had finished drinking, the man took a golden nose ring, its weight
was a beka, and two bracelets on her arms, ten gold shekels was their
weight" (Genesis 24:282). When Lavan sees the gifts he is excited, and he
"approached the man, who was still standing by the camels by the spring"
When Eliezer formally introduces himself to B'suel he declares his identity
quite firmly. "I am a servant of Avraham" (ibid v. 34). And when Eliezer
hears the words of acceptance from the soon-to-be in-laws, the Torah tells
us, "when Abraham's servant heard their words, he prostrated himself to the
ground unto Hashem" (ibid v.59).
Once again, he gives gifts to the new-found family. This time, however, he
is not called with Avraham's servant, but just plainly, "the servant
brought out objects of silver and gold, and garments, and gave them to
Rebecca; and delicious fruits he gave to her brother and her mother" (ibid
v. 60). There seems to be some special condition for using the terms
servant of Avraham. Don't we know who he was? I'd like to add my inflection
on that title.
One evening, Rav Moshe Feinstein received a call from a young man whom he
had never met. "I would like to ask the Rosh Yeshiva to be m'sader kidushin
at my wedding."
Rav Moshe reacted with a bit of surprise. "But I do not know you. Why are
you calling me? Don't you have your own rabbi?”
The young man explained. “I come from a simple family with no yichus,
(important lineage). I daven in a small shul with a little-known rabbi.
Boruch Hashem, I am marrying a girl who comes from a family of well known
origins, and many distinguished rabbis and lay leaders will be attending
the wedding on her behalf.
“I, on the other hand, have little money and even less genealogical
prestige. My in-laws don't think I am much of a scholar, and though I try
to learn whenever I can, it seems that my bride's parents are disappointed
in her choice. My parents are very quiet and simple people. They hardly
know anyone, and I must admit that I am embarrassed that I will have no
famous rabbis who will come from my side of the simcha. It would therefore
be a tremendous encouragement to me if the Rosh Yeshiva would come on my
behalf, and serve as the officiating rabbi.”
At the time, Rabbi Feinstein was the dean of the prestigious Mesivta
Tifereth Jerusalem in New York, the head of the council of Torah Sages of
Agudath Israel, and filled with myriad responsibilities to fulfill on a
communal and personal level. In addition, he was not a young man, and the
trip to the wedding would put further strain on his weary body.
Nevertheless, Rav Moshe obliged. And the kallah's (bride's) family reacted
in with awe for the prestige of the groom. "Imagine," they thought, "his
rabbi is none other than the revered Gadol HaDor, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein!"
With that, the young man was able to forge the foundations of a respect
that reverberated throughout his married years.
Matches are very delicate, and when Eliezer produced the beautiful gifts,
he did not have to be known as Avraham's servant. "The servant gave gifts.
The man took out a nose ring." But when it comes to laying the story out
clearly, Eliezer puts away the monetary status and replaces it with
something that money can't buy.
He declares his affiliation. I am the servant of Avraham. And when he
thanks Hashem for the success, it is not the man talking, nor is it the
servant. It is the servant of Avraham. Because when one goes into a
spiritual deal, he need not present pecuniary credentials or show his
bankbook. All he has to do is align himself with the right people, those
who are well connected.
Dedicated in memory of Alta Chaya Rasha bas R' Mordechai -- Roberta Katz
By Shmuel and Goldie Katz and Family
Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
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