The beauty of our holy Torah shines brightly for all to see in this week’s parsha. We learn about the miraculous way in which a wife was chosen for Yitzchok (Isaac). Avrohom (Abraham) enjoins his loyal servant Eliezer to make a trip out of The Land of Canaan to Choron (modern-day Iraq) back to where Avrohom’s family lives. There, he should seek out Avrohom’s family and find a wife for Yitzchok. Eliezer is given very specific instructions, and even made to swear regarding the execution of the orders. Innocently, Eliezer asks a seemingly reasonable question. “Perhaps the girl will refuse to come back with me? Should I bring your son back to your land?” Under no circumstances was this permitted. The Torah relates the entire episode how Eliezer arrives in the city of Avrohom’s family, stops at the well, and prays to find the right girl. “The girl who I will ask for a drink, and she will say ‘drink, and I’ll give your camels too’, she is the girl You have chosen for my master’s son.”
After the servant receives an immediate answer to his prayer in exactly the way he asked, he is welcomed into the home of the girl’s family. Eliezer retells the entire episode to them. There are several small differences in the retelling of the story, and I would like to focus on one. When Eliezer asked Avrohom what to do if the girl refuses to return, the Hebrew word “Ulai”, meaning perhaps, spelled Aleph, Vov, Lamed, Yud, is used. In the repetition, when Eliezer refers to this question he asked Avrohom, he uses the same word, but the Torah spells it without the Vov. Written in such a way, it can also be pronounced “ailai”, meaning “to me”. The great medieval commentator, Rashi, explains that Eliezer had a selfish (“to me”) motive in asking the question. Namely, he had a daughter whom he would have liked Yitzchok to marry.
Rabbi Dessler, the great thinker, and author of *Michtav MeiEliyahu, asks the following question. Why did Rashi wait until the retelling of the story to comment about Eliezer’s interest in his daughter marrying Yitzchok? Why didn’t Rashi address the issue the first time the story is told? To this Rav Dessler gives an answer which should be taught in all schools, and displayed prominently on every billboard. His answer is based on an important principle: Selfish interests blind people to the truth. As long as Eliezer was locked onto the idea that his daughter was the one for Yitzchok, he could not see that his question to Avrohom was really conjured up to make Avrohom reconsider, and choose Eliezer’s daughter instead. After he miraculously finds Rivka, and his personal hopes fade away, he is finally free to recognize the truth; that his statement “perhaps the woman will refuse” was something which he was actually hoping for. Therefore, Rashi reveals this issue at the point when Eliezer retells the story; when he himself finally understood this.
This principle, that it is impossible to see the truth when a selfish interest gets in the way, applies itself to innumerable aspects of life. How many times are relationships destroyed by selfish interests which blind people to the truth of what is best? How many unhealthy relationships do occur as a result of selfish interests? How many political issues are obviously driven by selfish interests, and not recognizing what is best? How many wars could have been avoided by aggressors recognizing their lack of objectivity?
This principle extends itself to other areas as well. Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, of blessed memory, applies this to matters of faith. According to some commentators one of the commandments is to believe in G-d. Rabbi Wasserman points out that the requirement to observe commandments begins on a Torah level at 12 years old for girls, and 13 years old for boys (and earlier on a Rabbinic level). His question is how is it possible to require of a child that which great philosophers had difficulty with; belief in G-d? His question goes further. How can G-d hold people ignorant of His existence responsible for lack of belief? Again, based on the above principle, he states that the question is not “how can they be required to believe,” but “how can one not believe?” If you found a watch in the middle of the desert, you would automatically conclude that someone else has been there. The universe is infinitely more complicated. Shouldn’t we arrive at the conclusion that SomeOne is there? Indeed, it is easy to believe in a Designer of the universe, even for young children. Even the ignorant can recognize it. Why don’t people believe? Rabbi Wasserman says it’s because people don’t want to believe. Faith is not approached with objectivity. Selfish priorities blind us to the extent that it is impossible to see even things which children can be expected to see.
The Torah is truth. In the Torah can be found the knowledge of the human psyche. From this week’s parsha we learn the importance of objectivity, and recognition of the truth. We learn to question our motivations, and to have the courage to change directions when the truth warrants it. May we all merit to be enlightened to the truth!
*Michtav MeiEliyahu is translated into Strive For Truth by Feldheim.