Chayei Sarah -
Seeking The Same
By Rabbi Aron Tendler
Seeking the proper shidduch (marriage partner) for one's child is time
consuming, anxiety ridden, and ultimately important. Parents hoping to find
a "good shidduch" engage in investigative techniques that are otherwise best
left to the gumshoes and heroes of cheap mystery novels. However, despite
the somewhat facetious analogy, conducting an investigation into potential
suitors and their families is significant and proper.
At best, marriage is a game of chance, and parents have the obligation to do
everything possible to reduce the odds in favor of success. The variables in
finding the right mate are immeasurable. The possibilities are endless. The
chances for success or failure are equally balanced. Pre-dating information
is among the few factors that can reduce the probabilities of failure and
increase the hope for success.
What should parents be looking for in their investigation? Before beginning
the search, it is important to decide which values are important to your
family and what criteria should be used in evaluating a potential shidduch.
After deciding what you are looking for in the categories of character,
family, finances, and looks, evaluate your list in relation to your child.
Are you being realistic in your search? Does your child deserve the
potential prince or princess that you imagine? Are you underselling your
child and limiting his or her choices? Will the son or daughter-in-law you
imagine make your child happy? Do you really know better than your children
do who and what they need in a spouse? The Rav of Manchester, Harav Segall
Zt'l, once told my uncle, Rav Yoseph Tendler Shlit'a that after all is said
and done, a parent has the obligation to find a shidduch that will make his
child happy. It is therefore important to include your son or daughter in
the process. Find out who their fantasy spouse is and challenge them to be
more realistic and honest. It is a parent's responsibility to lower or raise
a child's expectations.
This week's Parsha is the only place in the Torah where a shidduch
investigation is initiated and conducted. What values and criteria were
contained in Avraham's instructions to Eliezar? An analysis of the verses
reflects a singular emphasis on the country and family of the girl. The
character of the girl is not even mentioned. Why was Avraham concerned with
the girl's family, more so than with the girl herself?
Rav Dessler Zt'l, in Michtav MeEliyahu (Strive For Truth), explains the
concept of Zechus Avos - Ancestral merits.
Rav Dessler explained that the title of "Father" and "Mother" is reserved for
those unique individuals whose actions influenced the future abilities and
destinies of their children. The impact Rav Dessler refers to is far more
than the role modeling that every parent does in educating his or her
children. The actions of a "Father and Mother" affect the soul of a child.
For example. When Avraham chose to be thrown into the fiery furnace rather
than bow down to Nimrod he instilled in the spiritual genes of his children
the courage and strength to die "Al Kiddush Hashem - for the sanctification
of G-d's name."
This past week, Rabbi Holland Shlit'a explained to me that Rav Dessler's
approach is based upon the Ramban's (Nachmanidies) understanding of the Avos
and the Imahos. The Ramban explains throughout Bereshis that history as we
know of it did not have to be as it was. At every juncture, the decisions of
our forefathers and mothers could have altered the destiny of the Jewish
For example. If Avraham had decided to stay in Canaan and not go to Egypt,
the Bnai Yisroel would have never had to go to Egypt. It was because Avraham
decided to leave Canaan rather than staying and trusting G-d to somehow
provide for him that his children ended up going to Mitzrayim for 210 years.
In next week's Parsha, Toldos, we find another example. When Rivkah
conspired with Yaakov to "steal" the blessings from Eisav, the Ramban explains
that had they not done so, the blessings would have happened to Eisav. There
would be nothing that anyone could have done about it, including Yitzchak.
G-d would not have corrected the imbalance between Eisav and Yaakov. The
children of Yaakov would have had to contend with a totally different reality.
At the end of Parshas Vayetzei, Yaakov unwittingly cursed Rachel for taking
her father's idols. Because of the curse, Rachel died! Rashi explains, "A
Tzadik decrees and G-d must fulfill"! But why? Had Yaakov known he certainly
would not have cursed his beloved Rachel. Had Yitzchak known who Eisav
really was, he would have never wanted to give the blessings to him! Why, if
given by mistake, could they have not been altered? Why if Avraham made the
wrong decision by going to Egypt did his children have to suffer for over 100
years? (The last 100 years in Egypt.)
The Ramban explains that the Forefather's actions created the future reality
of their children. Had Avraham stayed in Canaan, he would have instilled in
the souls of his children the strength of conviction and belief to withstand
the pressures of an open society. There would have been no need for them to
go to Egypt. However, once Avraham decided to go to Egypt there was no other
choice. The Bnai Yisroel could not have stayed in Canaan and spiritually
In Toldos, Yitzchak's intent was to give Eisav the blessings for material
wealth in the service of spirituality. Had Rivkah allowed that to happen,
Yaakov would have been left with the blessings for spirituality that were
always going to be his. However, the means for accomplishing that
spirituality in the present material world would have been denied to him. In
order to survive, Yaakov would have had to be dependent upon Eisav's largess
and generosity! Instead, Rivkah and Yaakov intervened and the blessings for
material wealth in the service of spirituality were granted to Yaakov.
Therefore, the Bnai Yisroel have been able to make their way in this world
depending directly on G-d, rather than Eisav. Therefore, G-d could proclaim
to the Bnai Yisroel, "You are my servants and not servants to servants!"
In Vayetzei, Yaakov's curse was unqualified. He did not set conditions based
upon intent. Therefore, regardless of Rachel's reasons for stealing Lavan's
Trafim the curse had to stand. Rachel had to die. That is the power of the
Tzadik. That is the power of the Av!
Furthermore, we can better appreciate in next week's Parsha Yaakov's reasons
for "buying Eisav's birthright." Eisav's birthright was to be a partner with
Yaakov in the creation of the Jewish people. Eisav should have married Leah
and been the missing fourth Av. However, Yaakov recognized the depth of
Eisav's perversion and was terrified of the effect Eisav would have on the
future of the Jewish people. His power as an Av made him mortally dangerous.
Rather than setting in the souls of his children the qualities of
discipline, dignity, devotion, and G-dliness, Eisav would have done the
opposite! Instead, Yaakov bought from Eisav his part in the creation of the
nation saving us from his negative and destructive influences.
In this week's Parsha, Avraham sent Eliezer on a mission to find Yitzchak a
shidduch. Avraham expressed only one criteria for Yitzchak's bride. "She
must come from my homeland and my family." As far as the local Canaanite
girls were concerned, we understand that Avraham wanted nothing to do with
them. They were known to be immoral and promiscuous. They did not have the
"midos - character attributes" deserving of the son of Sarah. Yet, there was
another option. The daughter of the great Eliezar who had left behind the
wealth of his father Nimrod and became partners with Avraham and Sarah in
spreading the word of G-d! She appeared to be the perfect shidduch! Why take
a chance on the children of his evil brother Nachor when Eliezar's daughter
was right there?
In 24:38, Rashi references the Medresh that Avraham said to Eliezar, "I know
that your daughter is a wonderful and deserving young lady, but what can we
do? My son is blessed and you are cursed. One who is blessed can not marry
one who is cursed!"
The above Medresh highlights both the greatness of Eliezar as well as the
power of ancestry. Eliezar again proves his absolute devotion to his master
Avraham and to G-d. Regardless of personal feelings or desires, Eliezar
willingly and lovingly accepts the inherent limitations of his being a
great-grand son of the cursed Cham. As such, the qualities of his soul were
not the qualities necessary to father the Jewish nation. Yitzchak descended
from the great Shem who instilled in the souls of his children the ability to
sanctify the material world in the service of G-d. Avraham sent Eliezar in
search of those latent qualities yet to be found in the children of his
It was possible that their spiritual connection and qualities had been
corrupted or severed. (see Rav Dessler). However, that would be immediately
clear if the girl did not wish to return with Eliezar. If that had been the
case, G-d would have provided some other alternative. However, Yitzchak was
not to marry a descendent of Cham. "One who is blessed can not marry one who
As we know from this week's Parsha, Rivkah passed all the tests. Not only
did she still have the qualities of Chesed and modesty, (the most important
characteristics for sanctifying the physical world in the service of Hashem -
think about it!) she also desired to immediately return to Yitzchak and the
tent of Sarah. (24:47).
The shidduch business is not fun, but it is essential. As parents, we are
obligated to search out those individuals and families that reflect our
values and beliefs. Granted that we do not possess the strength of the
Forefathers and mothers. However, we are all Avos and Imahos in our own
right. The way we live and the focus of our decisions establish a template
for our children's future.
Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.