Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 23   No. 5

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Chaim Yechiel Rotman zt"l ht"d

Parshas Chayei-Sarah

Eliezer's Prayer
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

"May it be that the young girl to whom I will say 'Lower your pitcher and I will drink" and she will say "Drink! and also your camels I will water", she is the girl whom You (Hashem) have chosen for your servant Yitzchak' (24:14).

Undoubtedly, the girl who would display such incredible chesed would be the ideal choice to enter into Avraham's family and to balance the extreme Midas ha'Din of Yitzchak. But what if she had been blind or lame? Who gave Eliezer the mandate to pick a wife for Yitzchak who was maimed? Moreover, why did he not include in his prayer a proviso that the girl should also be healthy?

That is why the Gemara in Ta'anis (4a) includes Eliezer in the list of three people who did not make their requests correctly. Fortunately, G-d responded positively and the girl who came out was without blemish.

King Shaul too, made the same mistake when he promised to give his daughter's hand in marriage to whoever would kill Goli'ath - rendering eligible even a slave or a Mamzer. So did Yiftach, who declared that, if he was victorious over the Midyonites, he would offer the first one to leave the gates of his house to greet him as a sacrifice, leaving open the possibility that he might be greeted by a non-Kasher animal or even worse . The former was lucky; he ended up with a son-in-law by the name of David (ha'Melech); the latter was not so fortunate - the first to come out to greet him was his beloved daughter.


To be sure, one has to have Bitachon, a major Midah, one upon which Tefilah is built. Yet a Tefilah itself must be specific. One cannot Daven and leave details of one's request open to interpretation. And this is a lesson we can learn from Ya'akov Ovinu, who pleaded with Hashem to save him 'from his brother from Eisav', by which he meant whether he comes as a brother (with love) or as the wicked Eisav (with intent to kill) - as the Zohar explains.


Nor can one compare the above cases to that of the woman cited in the Bava Kama (80a), who swore that she would give her son to the first girl whose parents would offer her their daughter. But when unrefined people approached her, the Chachamim gave her the right to decline, since it was obvious that she never intended to include such people in her statement.


The Torah Temimah draws a distinction between the case of the woman, whose sweeping statement 'anyone who ' naturally had its restrictions; whereas Eliezer, who stipulated 'If the girl replies ', meant exactly what he said, no other conditions attached.

I would suggest that the difference lies between a Tefilah, which as we explained earlier, must be specific, and other forms of communication, which are subject to clarification.

* * *

Nichush (Divining)

" And the man took out a golden nose-ring and two bracelets which he placed on her hands" (24:22).

Commenting on the fact that it is only in the Pesukim that follow that Eliezer ascertains that Rivkah is from the right family, the one that was specified by Avraham, Rashi explains that so sure was Eliezer that G-d had answered his prayer, that he took for granted who she was even before verifying it. Tosfos in Chulin (96b) points out that in that case, Eliezer transgressed Nichush, a form of Kishuf (magic) forbidden by the Torah - as the Gemara there actually insinuates. One possible answer offered by Tosfos follows the opinion that before Matan Torah, the B'nei No'ach were not subject to Kishuf. Alternatively, Tosfos, based on the principle that there is no chronological order in the Torah, explains that Eliezer actually questioned Rivkah prior to giving the rings. And he proves this by pointing out how later (see Pasuk 47) when, relating the events to Rivkah's family, Eliezer himself inverted the order. Rashi, in keeping with his above-mentioned interpretation, attributes the switch to the fact that they would have queried his behavior had he not inverted the facts. But according to Tosfos, Eliezer was not guilty of Nichush at all, and the Gemara only links Nichush with him because it appears that he was.


According to Rashi however, the question remains - how Eliezer, whom Chazal describe as a faithful Talmid of Avraham Avinu, could contravene something that the Torah specifically forbids!

* * *

A Shadchan's Dream

"Hashem, G-d of the Heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my birth-place, who spoke to me and who swore to me saying, 'To your seed will I give this land!' He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there!" (24:7)

A careful study of the current Parshah makes it abundantly clear that Avraham's words to Eliezer were not just a blessing, but a prophecy. From the moment that Eliezer left his master's presence, the angel to which Avraham alluded guided him and crowned each and every stage of his mission with success - with the sole exception of Lavan and Rivkah's acceptance of his offer. This was of course, a matter of Bechirah (their free-will and choice) which Avraham could not possibly assure him. Indeed, that explains why he stipulated at the outset that they may well refuse, instructing Eliezer how to proceed in the event that they would do so. In spite of this however, the angel did lend a helping hand to Rivkah and her family in agreeing with Eliezer's proposal, as we shall see.

Let us take a closer look at the chain of events as they occurred and see for ourselves how the angel was there, every step of the way, from the moment Eliezer left Eretz Cana'an, until the moment he returned, accomplished.


Eliezer arrived in Choron (a journey that would normally have taken a few weeks, if not months) on the same day that he left Eretz Cana'an.


He found himself in a strange town, where he knew no-one, yet, without consulting a single person, he located the 'bashert' girl (a three-year old, according to most commentaries), who arrived on the scene - at the right place at precisely the right moment - just as Eliezer finished Davenning!


Not to speak of the 'minor' miracles - the water rising to greet Rivkah the switching of the plates (Eliezer's poisoned food with Besu'el's), resulting in Eliezer's salvation and Besuel's death, we find Rivkah's family left with no option but to publicly admit that this was an act of Divine Providence. And so they agreed to the match, despite their initial antagonism and subsequent efforts to prevent, or at least, delay it, by months, if not a year (See next article).


And so it was that Eliezer reported back to Avraham, mission accomplished without the slightest hitch, having had to perform so little hishtadlus (effort), that he would have been the envy of any modern Shadchan. According to Targum Yonasan, who maintains that he had 'k'fitzas ha'derech' on the way back too, the entire episode lasted little more than twenty-four hours.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

"And there was placed before him (Vayusam lefionov) to eat. The same word appears at the end of Vay'chi, where the Torah writes that Yosef was placed (va'yusam) in a coffin in Egypt.

This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that Rivkah's family planned to kill Eliezer (by poisoning his food) and place him in a coffin.

Fortunately however, Eliezer sensed what they were up to. That is why he told them that he would not eat until he had said what he had to say He was the servant of Avraham who had taught him that one does not eat before reciting the appropriate B'rachos and over a Kos shel B'racha (it is unclear what the Ba'al ha'Turim is referring to), which would serve as a protection. And indeed, in the course of the delay, an angel came and switched the plates, as Rashi comments (on Pasuk 55).


And Yitzchak went out to Daven (lo'su'ach" in the field" (24:63). From here we learn that Yitzchak instigated T'efilas Minchah, says the Ba'al ha'Turim. And based on the fact that, no sooner had he finished Davening than Eliezer arrived with Rivkah, the Ba'al ha'Turim connects this with the Pasuk in Tehilin (32:6) "For this let every devout man pray to You in the time of need ('le'eis metzo)" - with reference to a Shiduch, as the Pasuk writes in Mishlei (18:22) "Motzo ishah motzo tov".


It is interesting how both Eliezer and Yitzchak - in the same Parshah - met with success, in different aspects of the same Shiduch, immediately after they had Davened. One cannot overestimate the role that Tefilah plays regarding Shiduchim.

* * *

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