Parshas Chayai Sarah
Character, Bedrock of the Personality
By Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig
Our Patriarch Avraham is acknowledged as one of the foremost servants of G-d
in history. He spread the concept of monotheism throughout the world and
dedicated his life to connecting mankind with the Creator of the Universe.
As the divinely designated heir to this legacy, his son Yitzchak (Isaac) and
his descendants would receive the Torah and lead the world to its ultimate
purpose. Thus, finding the ideal mate for Yitzchak was vital.
Avraham, perplexingly, intentionally overlooked the many hundreds of people
in whom he had invested so much time and energy, those he and Sarah
themselves had drawn close to G-d. Undoubtedly, many of them achieved high
levels in their spiritual quest to appreciate G-d's ultimate dominion over
the world and its innumerable concurrent functions. The daughter of his
faithful and learned servant Eliezer was an obvious candidate to be
Yitzchak's mate, but was rejected because of her Canaanite heritage.
Instead, Avraham opted to find an unknown woman from his homeland of Ur
Kasdim, choosing to find the ideal mate from an area populated by idol
worshippers rather than selecting from the families of his finest students.
Even more curious is the process in which Rivka, Yitzchak's ultimate bride,
was chosen. As she drew water for her family, Eliezer, a stranger to Rivka
acting as Avraham's messenger, requested she provide his entourage with
water. If she would provide them and their camels with their needed water,
this would be a sign from G-d that she was the one destined to marry
Yitzchak. While this test was indicative of her kind nature, it revealed
nothing about her ideology. Why was there a concern with her character but
no apparent concern if she was an idol worshipper, atheist, or a follower of
any of the false ideologies Avraham dedicated his life to eradicating?
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian (1876-1976; disseminator of Torah and mussar (ethics)
for over 70 years in Lithuania, England and Israel; some of his thoughts are
collected in the two volume Lev Eliyahu) explains that Avraham's priorities
for Yitzchak's spouse offer a deeper insight into service of G-d. The import
of fear and awe of G-d is primary, but good midos (character traits, moral
fiber) are the essential foundation on which this reverence is built. A
person with the proper midos who lacks the fear of G-d needs only to be
taught the fallacy of his outlook. When he appreciates his error and
resolves to change he can quickly accomplish and grow in divine service.
Conversely, a person with coarse midos, even with the comprehension that his
weaknesses need to be addressed, can work an entire lifetime to change and
still not succeed.
Avraham was living in the land of Canaan, surrounded by the descendants of
Canaan who, a few Torah portions ago, were cursed by their grandfather Noah.
The bad midos Canaan and his father, Ham, exhibited disgraced Noah after the
flood. Avraham's knowledge of human nature dictated that children generally
inculcate the attributes of their parents. Despite the fact that his
students were G-d fearing individuals - he himself had trained them - they
were not fit to be a match for Yitzchak. He had no choice but to search for
a match from the descendants of his grandfather, Ham's brother, Shem. In
contrast to Ham and Canaan, Noah blessed Shem because of his concern for
their father's honor. Avraham, as Shem's progeny, had his grandfather's
strength of character, and he correctly surmised that another descendent of
Shem would be the ideal mate for Yitzchak. Overlooking all of his followers
and searching elsewhere to find Yitzchak's match, Avraham taught us a most
basic precept in the service of G-d: Derech eretz kadma leTorah, an
existence dedicated to living and learning Torah can only be built on the
bedrock of strong character.
Have a good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2001 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
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