Internal World – Parshas Chayei Sarah

Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, was sent to find a wife for Yitzchok. Avraham went over all of the criteria and specifications with him, had him swear that he would do the job properly, and sent him on his way. Eliezer and his entourage went to Aram Naharayim, Avraham’s birthplace, and began the search. He davened hard that Hashem should guide him and suddenly he met Rivka who was coming to the well. She was a prominent young lady and showed herself to be filled with kindness as she drew water for all of the men and their camels. Eliezer saw and recognized her greatness and told her about Yitzchok. She agreed to marry him and they went to talk with her family as well.

The servant went and met with Lavan and Besuel. They were happy to see Rivka marry such a rich and famous person. In the course of Eliezer’s recounting of the story, he went through many of the details about his appointment by Avraham as the messenger to find a wife for Yitzchok. Chazal (Beraishis Rabbah 60:8) make a perplexing statement. “Rav Acha says that the idle story-telling of the servant (Eliezer) of the Avos is greater than the Torah laws given to the sons, for the Torah elaborates and writes all of the details that Eliezer recounted to Rivka’s family while some Torah laws are learned from minimal scriptural hints.” What does this mean and why is Eliezer’s speech so precious?

Another question is that in Eliezer’s recounting he says that he asked Avraham what do do if (“Uli,” perhaps, see Berieshis 24:39) the girl would not want to come back home with him. Avraham said that he would then be exempt from his mission. The word used is אלי, perhaps, which Rashi points out is missing a Vav and thus can be pronounced as “Aily, to me.” Eliezer had a daughter whom he wished for Yitzchok, but Avraham refused explaining that it was not an appropriate match. Why is this only hinted to here when Eliezer was recounting the mission details to Rivka’s family. Earlier in the Parsha when the mission began, the Torah tells us about Eliezer’s question but spells the word as אולי, perhaps, omitting the hint (because it contains a Vav) about his wish to marry off his daughter?

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler zt”l (1892-1953) explains that it was only after Eliezer found Rivka and saw how fitting she was for Yitzchok and how his daughter was not an option did he recognize that he had really been biased and was only motivated to ask the question of “perhaps” in the first place with his daughter in mind. Now Eliezer recognized that he had almost let himself sabotage the mission because of his own passions. Thus, it is hinted here at his time of deep inner truth and recognition. I add to this that the only way that he was able to overcome the bias was with powerful prayer and his connection to Hashem when he asked to be guided to the right one.

The beauty referred to in the Midrash concerning the repetition of Eliezer’s story is that he showed himself to be a true student of Avraham. He was striving to do what is right and to get in touch with himself. The entire purpose of the Torah is not simply laws and limitations. Hashem wants us to learn how to be free of the biases and shackles of the Yetzer Harah and to achieve autonomy (Avos 6:2). It is no surprise that Chazal say that after this mission Eliezer was freed from being a servant. He had demonstrated deep self-control, contemplation and self-mastery, he was no longer a slave. This lesson is one of the most precious of all of the Torah and is therefore more prominent than other scriptural laws. The sections of the Torah which discuss the Avos are meant to teach us how to live our lives and to gain spiritual sensitivity. The Avos teach us to be in touch with our deep inner world and to seek out closeness with Hashem as we deeply yearn in our hearts.