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” (ibid. v.30).
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.
The author is the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.