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November 5-6, 1999 27 Heshvan 5760

Rosh Hodesh Kislev will be observed Tuesday and Wednesday, November 9 & 10.

Pop Quiz: Where did Ribkah's family live?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"To my land and to my birthplace shall you go and take a wife for my son, for Yitzhak" (Beresheet 24:4)

For the first time our holy Torah talks about the method of finding a partner in marriage. Abraham is old and Yitzhak is not yet married. Before he passes away, Abraham instructs his trusted servant Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzhak. Abraham views this mission as Eliezer's most important job. This is reflected by the fact that, even though Abraham trusted Eliezer fully in running his entire estate and fortune, now suddenly he subjects Eliezer to an oath to be loyal.

Abraham tells Eliezer he must return to Haran, Abraham's hometown, to find a wife. He instructs Eliezer that under no circumstances can he find a wife from the land of Canaan, where Abraham lives now. Eliezer asks a simple question: What if he finds the right girl in Haran but she refuses to come to Canaan to live? Can he bring Yitzhak to her to live in Haran? Abraham's reply is: Absolutely not!

Rabbi Y. Frand remarks that from this conversation we learn a fundamental attitude we must have in life. We can understand Abraham's preference that Yitzhak should live in Canaan and not go to Haran. But, what if she won't come? Doesn't Abraham need a contingency plan? Shouldn't he plan for a worst case scenario? What would have been with the Jewish people?

Abraham's response to Eliezer that Yitzhak will not go teaches us an attitude. If something cannot be done the way it is supposed to be done, then it should not be done at all. We have an obligation to live our lives according to the Torah. We do not compromise; we do not bend the rules. What is going to be? I don't know what is going to be. I have to do what is right. The rest is G-d's responsibility.

This attitude will guide us in finding a mate for our children. We will dress our children properly; we will keep them in a kosher social environment. This is the rule of our Torah. But, this attitude must guide us in all of life's endeavors. If something cannot be done the way it should be done, then we just don't do it. The question, "But what will happen now?" is not our problem. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba" (Beresheet 23:2)

The Rabbis tell us that Sarah passed away when she heard that Yitzhak was almost killed. The shock of such drastic news was enough to make Sarah lose her life. However, we also know that Sarah was greater than Abraham in prophecy, so if Abraham was able to perform the act itself without being overwhelmed by his emotions, why could Sarah not bear this trauma, since she is the greater of the two?

The answer is that fulfilling a nisayon, a test, often seems beyond one's capabilities. However, Hashem, Who commands one to be tested, also gives him the strength to bear the challenge. The misvah itself reinforces the person doing it. Abraham was commanded to do the Akedah, the binding of Yitzhak, so he was given the strength to bear the test. Sarah was not herself commanded in this misvah, and so relying only on her natural strength, she passed away merely upon hearing the news of Yitzhak's near death.

We are constantly faced with challenges, and some of them seem so overwhelming to us, even to the point where we feel it's impossible to pass this test. We have to know that if Hashem gives a test, He also gives the wherewithal to pass the challenge. We just have to look deep inside of ourselves and pray for His guidance. There, we will find it! Shabbat Shalom.


"Let it be that the maiden to whom I shall say, ' Please tip over your jug so I may drink' and who replies, 'Drink, and I will even water your camels'" (Beresheet 24:14)

Why did Eliezer test Ribkah in this way? Eliezer wanted to verify two basic things about the girl.

1) Was she good-natured?

2) Was she bright and resourceful in a difficult situation?

Therefore, Eliezer asked her to tilt the jug so that he can drink from the jug itself. If she were good-natured, she would have pity on a thirsty man and let him drink. However, he was curious to see what she would do with the leftover water. If she would take it home or drink it herself, she would appear to be foolish, because Eliezer was a stranger and might have been sick, contaminating the water. On the other hand, if she would spill it out on the ground, this would be disrespectful to Eliezer. When Eliezer saw that after letting him drink, Ribkah took the remainder of the jug and gave it to the camels, he knew that not only was she good natured, but also very bright and of refined character. (Vedibarta Bam)


Be certain to keep a promise you have made to a child, because otherwise you are instilling within him a propensity to lie at an early, impressionable age. - Gemara Succah 46b



"And I said to my master, 'Perhaps the woman will not follow me'" (Beresheet 24:39)

Upon meeting with Ribkah's family, Eliezer recounted his entire discussion with Abraham. Included in the conversation, Eliezer related his anxiety that the prospective bride might refuse his offer. Rashi cites the reason behind this fear. Eliezer himself had a daughter for whom he sought Yitzhak as a husband. Upon approaching Abraham with the idea of this match, he encountered a negative response. Abraham's rejection was based upon the fact that Eliezer, as a descendant of Canaan, was considered cursed, while Yitzhak was blessed. A union between one who is blessed and one who is cursed cannot endure.

The spelling of the word "ulay", which means "perhaps," alludes to the overture by Eliezer regarding his daughter. It is written without a vav, thereby causing it to be read as "elay", "to me." This wording intimates that Abraham should approach Eliezer in order to request his daughter for Yitzhak. Why does Rashi not make his comment earlier, when Eliezer questions Abraham upon receiving the details of his mission.

Indeed, in Eliezer's original statement, the word "perhaps" is written within the conventional spelling of "ulay". If Eliezer was alluding to something, why doesn't the Torah indicate this at the time he actually said it? Why does the Torah wait until the retelling of the conversation to make this point?

The Kotzker Rebbe replied with an insightful statement. Frequently, one will not admit to himself his own personal ulterior motives. While one is immersed in a predicament which touches upon areas of vested interest, it is very difficult to notice how much one's subjectivity controls his actions and responses. Only after some time has elapsed can one be more objective and truly critical of his own motivations.

In recounting the whole episode of his mission, Eliezer was struck with the realization that his personal interest had clouded his objectivity. His profound sense of disappointment in not managing to arrange for Yitzhak to be his son-in-law indicated this to him. Only after this realization became apparent to Eliezer does the Torah reveal this allusion.

This is true in other areas. Often one will perceive himself as acting solely leshem Shamayim, for the sake of Heaven. The litmus test of one's true motivations is his reaction during a moment of crisis or disappointment. If one's initial response is dignified and respectable, then one's motivations for the sake of Heaven are clear. Conversely, if one reacts negatively, with a vengeance and animosity, his true ulterior motives are readily apparent.

Prior to undertaking any activity or mission, be it personal or communal, one should go through some form of introspection in order to clarify his actual motivations. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Aram Naharayim.

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