Back to Parsha homepage
Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
Archive of previous issues

Chayei Sarah II

G-d Plans Every Marriage

And he said, I am Abraham's servant. (BERESHIS 24:34)

Some disturbing news once reached the ears of the Chofetz Chaim. A certain student in his yeshiva was involved in a shidduch, and since the girl was reluctant to say yes, there was no progress. The boy's friends in the yeshivah advised him to shave off his beard, thinking that the beard was the reason for the girl's hesitation. They claimed that most yeshivah students these days shaved their beards, and he should do the same.

The Chofetz Chaim invited the student to his home, and began to speak to him about shidduchim. Then he told him the following parable.

A locomotive was pulling more than a hundred loaded train cars up a steep mountain. Even though the engine driver had put on full steam, the locomotive was moving slowly due to the extremely heavy load.

One of the passengers, who thought himself a clever fellow, decided that he wanted to speed up the pace of the train. He got out and walked to the back of the last car and began pushing with both hands, certain that with his helping hand the train would now move faster.

The other passengers laughed at him and said, "What is your strength compared to a locomotive's strength? Yours is like the strength of a mosquito compared to that of an ox."

The Chofetz Chaim ended his parable and saidto his student, "The same thing applies to shidduchim. Even though every shidduch is announced in Heaven forty days before the formation of a fetus (i.e. at the moment of conception), nevertheless, the matter is as hard to accomplish as the splitting of the Yam Suf [Red Sea]. We know that G-d Himself makes the shidduchim. You might suddenly have the idea to help Him by shaving off your beard so that the girl will like you more. But then you will be similar to the 'clever' passenger who pushed with all his strength, thinking that he was 'helping' a hundred loaded train cars up the mountain." (CHOFETZ CHAIM AL HATORAH, p. 92)

The words of the Chofetz Chaim are a reminder to us that the spouse that we have was chosen for us by Heaven. We must realize this, and find ways to overcome any marital difficulties that arise since they also are from Heaven.

"And he [Eliezer] said, 'I am the slave of Avraham." If you are afraid that someone might say something to you, you should say it yourself first. "And I came today to the well." From Kiryas Arba to Charan requires seventeen days of traveling, but in just three hours the servant arrived in Charan, and was wondering in his heart what had happened. He said, "Today I left, and today I arrived." As it is written, "And I came today to the well." (ibid).

G-d wanted to do chesed for Avraham and so he sent an angel before Eliezer and the road 'jumped' before him. The daughter of kings [Rivkah] who had never in her life gone to draw water from a well, went out to draw water at that exact time. It was this same young girl, who had no concept of what is a man, who decided to marry Yitzchak, she was destined for him from her mother's womb. (YALKUT 109, par. VAYOMER)

What are our Sages referring to in the above midrash when they said, "If you are afraid that someone might say something to you, you should say it yourself first?" Why was it necessary for Eliezer to arrive so quickly through a miracle, rather than after seventeen days, the time it should normally take? Why did Rivkah have to be at the well exactly when Eliezer arrived? Why did Rivkah have to agree immediately to the shidduch?

Eliezer knew that all he could offer as an explanation for the incredible speed of his journey would seem very strange in the eyes of Lavan and Besuel. After a person travels for seventeen days, he normally looks worn out, and here Eliezer was as fresh as if he had just made a short trip. Even if he had had the normal appearance of a long-distance traveler, one of the first questions that he would have been asked is when did he leave. It would be incomprehensible to answer that he had just left that day, without adding some sort of explanation.

In addition, Eliezer's readiness to choose the first girl he met at the well would seem strange, since the normal procedure would be to investigate many possible mates for Yitzchak, and to choose the girl who was most suitable. Since all these questions were just waiting to be asked, Eliezer anticipated them and gave the answers before he was asked. That is what our Sages meant when they said, "If you are afraid that someone might say something to you, you should say it yourself first." What was meant by the Sages' comment is now apparent, but why did Eliezer have to experience the miracles in the first place? One reason the miracles may have been needed was to impress Lavan. Without something extraordinary happening, he would never have agreed to send Rivkah to a distant land.

My Spouse is Just Who I Need for My Spiritual Growth

Another possible reason why it was necessary for Eliezer to arrive so quickly, through a miracle rather than through the normal seventeen day journey, could be that the Torah is teaching us that when it comes to a shidduch, no time should be wasted. Even though a shidduch comes from Heaven, the Talmud says that someone else can take your shidduch away by begging for mercy from G-d. Thus the Torah may be teaching us this lesson through the miracle so that we will know that a leisurely or ambivalent attitude is not appropriate when looking for a shidduch.

Once a person sees that he has found "the chosen one," he must be quick to act and complete the mitzvah. A person is not allowed to be lazy in mitzvos, and marriage is a very important mitzvah. Since there is a danger of such a terrible loss, it is necessary to act as quickly as possible. That is the reason the poskim allow a couple to become engaged even on Tisha B'Av.

In Rivka and Yitzhak's marriage we see clearly the principle that G-d controls every shidduch. On the superficial level the marriage between Yitzhak and Rivka would appear natural and normal, but in reality everything, down to the smallest detail, was manipulated by G-d. That is the reason why Eliezer found Rivkah at the well just when he arrived. It is to teach us that every shidduch is from Heaven and that G-d takes care of every detail to make certain that the shidduch is successful.

If a person will reflect on how he came to marry his spouse, he will find that everything was arranged by Heaven. The circumstances were carefully set up by Heaven so that this man was able to marry this woman, and that this woman was able to marry this man.

The miracles that Eliezer experienced were also the reason why Rivkah agreed immediately to the shidduch. It was clear to her that all these miracles were signs from Heaven that Eliezer was sent by G-d, and therefore she accepted the inevitability of her marriage to Yitzchak.

Every single marriage is from Heaven. Forty days before a fetus is formed it is announced in Heaven who that child will eventually marry. 6 If you have entered into a marriage, it is a sign from Heaven that this marriage can and should succeed. There are rare instances in which one has chosen one's spouse wrongly, based on mistaken considerations. If the situation seems truly impossible to live with, it is important to seek qualified advice from a sensitive source-person, i.e. an experienced rabbi or religious counselor.

Since in our generation belief in G-d has been weakened, people believe instead in their own strength and power. The result is that the institution of marriage also has been weakened. This is because a person who relies solely on his own abilities will see some challenges in his marriage as being too great for him. Such a person will choose to end a marriage rather than tackle problems which he considers to be too difficult.

But a person who perceives that the Alm-ghty arranged the union will know that nearly all difficulties are eventually resolvable. In fact, he'll know that these specific difficulties were selected by G-d for his own spiritual growth. Therefore, what is needed is for a person to focus on the truth that his spouse is exactly who he needs for his spiritual and emotional growth and well-being.

Once a person realizes that his spouse is truly chosen by Heaven, then he will have the strength to overcome any difficulties that arise. G-d does not give us a trial that we cannot overcome. We must make every possible effort to solve

any problem that arises, and find peace and love with the shidduch that was chosen for us by Heaven. The more we strengthen our belief in G-d, the more we will be able to find ways to make our marriages stronger.

Back to Parsha homepage | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel