Like His Master, Yet Not to be Trusted?
[Many of Chazal's statements attest to the outstanding
qualities of Avrohom Ovinu's servant Eliezer.] "And Avrohom
said to his servant, the elder of his house, the controller
of all he owned . . . " (Bereishis 24:2). Chazal
(Bereishis Rabba 59:8) interpret the word
zekan, as being composed of the initials of the words
ziv eikunin, meaning appearance, and they learn from
this that Eliezer's appearance was similar to that of
They interpret the words, "the controller of all he owned,"
to mean that Eliezer had the same degree of control over his
yetzer hora as Avrohom Ovinu had over his.
Eliezer is referred to as Damesek Eliezer (Bereishis
15:2). Chazal interpret this title as being composed of
the initial of the word doleh, to draw, and the root
letters of the word mashkeh, to give to drink,
signifying that Eliezer was doleh umashkeh, that he
drew from the wellspring of his master's Torah and taught it
According to one version of a statement of Chazal's, Eliezer
was one of the seven people who ascended alive to Heaven and
did not die in this world.
Chazal say that Avrohom was "an elder who sat in a yeshiva,"
that is, he was rosh yeshiva, and the medrash
also says that Eliezer was a rosh yeshiva.
Avrohom told Eliezer, and made him swear, that he not "take
a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites,
among whom I live" (Bereishis 24:3). It is amazing
that Avrohom made Eliezer take an oath -- and such a serious
one, made while he held a mitzvoh object in his hand -- that
he would not take a wife for Yitzchok from the daughters of
Canaan. Surely it would have been enough just to ask Eliezer
to take him a wife from Avrohom's family. Eliezer was his
disciple. He taught Avrohom's Torah to others. Why was it
necessary that he swear?
What Are Your Priorities?
I heard the following explanation (I think it was in the
name of the Brisker Rov ztvk'l), which we will
preface with a moshol (which is in fact not a
moshol but reality).
A man comes to a city and wants to have a meal in a kosher
restaurant. However, he isn't acquainted with the owner and
doesn't know if he is trustworthy. He goes out into the
street and meets someone and asks him if he knows the
restaurant's owner and whether he can rely on the
kashrus. The passerby tells him that it's kosher and,
without making any further inquiries, relying solely upon
this unknown person's testimony, he goes inside and eats
When someone arrives in a strange place to do business,
however, he makes very extensive inquiries about the honesty
of those with whom he proposes to do business. If someone
suggests a partnership with him, he responds, "Do I know
you? How can I do business with you?" This is self
understood. Only after he's received proofs of the man's
honesty and heard the testimony of others who have dealt
with him, will he transact business dealings with him.
Avrohom Ovinu's order of priorities was exactly the
opposite. Eliezer "controlled all that was his." Avrohom was
a very wealthy man. The Pelishtim valued the dung of his son
Yitzchok's mules over the gold and silver of their king,
Avimelech (Rashi, Bereishis 26:13). The posuk
tells us that Avrohom "planted an eishel" (Bereishis
21:33), meaning that wherever he went, he distributed
food and drink at his own expense. In his financial affairs,
he didn't ask Eliezer for any accounts. He relied upon him
completely in all his financial dealings.
When it came to spiritual matters, however, and the future
existence of Klal Yisroel, he didn't rely on Eliezer,
even though Eliezer was his main disciple. He made him swear
by Hashem that he wouldn't take a wife for Yitzchok from the
The Family Stigma
We must consider what the shortcoming of Canaan was. In
parshas Noach (9:22) the Torah tells us, "And Chom,
the father of Canaan, saw his father uncovered and he told
his two brothers outside." Afterwards, Noach said, "Cursed
is Canaan, he shall be the servant of servants to his
brothers." Rashi (posuk 22) brings an opinion that
Chom's son Canaan was the one who saw Noach uncovered and
that he told his father, Chom, and this is why his name was
singled out by Noach for being cursed. Canaan has corrupt
character traits [which passed to all his descendants].
When a patient is being questioned by a doctor, the doctor
will ask whether the patient's parents also suffered from
the same disease, for it might be genetically linked. We
find that men from the nations of Ammon and Mo'ov "may not
enter Hashem's congregation forever. Because they did not
meet you with bread and water on the way, when you left
Egypt . . . " (Devorim 23:4). What does this have to do with
the children and grandchildren of the Ammonites and Moabites
who lived at that time? Even if one of their descendants
wants to convert and become a Jew, we turn him away.
The reason is that just as there are physical diseases that
are genetic, there are also spiritual conditions that are
genetic: in this case, the bad character trait of not having
extended kindness to Klal Yisroel when they left
This is why Avrohom made Eliezer swear that he wouldn't take
a wife for Yitzchok from the Canaanites. Such a match would
endanger the entire future of Klal Yisroel. If for
example, a ten story building is being erected, the
foundation must be strong enough to support ten stories. But
if the building is to have a hundred floors, the foundation
must be extremely strong and solid or else the entire
building may collapse. Yitzchok's future wife would be the
foundation of Klal Yisroel. Therefore, even though
Avrohom could rely upon Eliezer in his financial affairs,
when it came to choosing a wife for Yitzchok, he had to make
him take an oath!
Our Torah is a Torah of truth and one should never depart
from the truth. I heard a great man say once that everything
but the truth can be faked. If the truth contains any
element of falsehood and fakery, then it isn't the truth any
Our Torah of truth writes about Canaan (Hoshea 12:5),
"Canaan has scales of deceit in his hand, with which to
swindle a loved one." Chazal (Bereishis Rabba 59:9)
say that Eliezer wanted to swindle Hakodosh Boruch
Hu's loved one, namely Yitzchok. Eliezer said to
Avrohom, "Maybe the woman won't want to go after me . . . "
From the missing vov in the word ulai, meaning
perhaps, making it possible to read it as eilai,
meaning to me, Chazal learn that Eliezer had a daughter of
his own, whom he was weighing in his mind as possibly being
a suitable match for Yitzchok. Eliezer's daughter must have
been very righteous, or else he wouldn't even have
considered her for Yitzchok, yet Chazal tell us that Avrohom
nevertheless said to him, "You are cursed and my son is
blessed. One who is cursed cannot cleave to one who is
Eliezer therefore had a personal bias since he wanted his
own daughter to marry Yitzchok. Since he neglected to take
his descent from Canaan into consideration, however, the
posuk, "Canaan has scales of deceit in his hand," is
applied to him. It is oyome venorah!
This is the meaning of Chazal's statement: "Hakodosh
Boruch Hu's seal is the truth." Even the slightest
deviation from the truth is, in effect, a complete departure
from it. Chazal tell us that to this day, Korach is
shouting, "Moshe is the truth and his Torah is the truth!"
Because of his own slight bias, which led him to deviate
from the truth, Korach deteriorated to the point where he
perpetrated his rebellion!
Eliezer's motivations were holy, for his desire was that by
Yitzchok's marriage with his daughter, Klal Yisroel
would be built. However, Avrohom still told him that a match
between the object of a blessing and the object of a curse
Such holy desires are very great things indeed. A person
ought to have such a desire for every mitzvoh and derive
enjoyment from every mitzvoh that he does.
I remember the Admor of Zevhill ztvk'l, whom I knew
personally. Many stories are told about him and I will just
repeat one of the thousand things that can be related about
He used to fulfill Chazal's injunction: "Meet everyone with
a greeting," literally. Every morning on his way to the
beis haknesses he would greet every single person he
met. Even though I was a child, he greeted me with a "Good
morning." The Admor said about himself that when he was
young, he had tremendous pleasure and enjoyment from wearing
his tefillin every morning like, lehavdil, the
enjoyment which a sinner gets from imagining himself
transgressing a great aveiro, R'l. We see from here
the extent to which a tzaddik can work on his
strengths and his desires, to the point where he has
enjoyment from putting on tefillin.
Eliezer wanted to build Klal Yisroel. He yearned to
do this with his every limb and sinew and thus he asked
Avrohom, "Perhaps the woman will not want to go after
What did he ultimately do? The posuk (24:12) says,
"And he said, `Hashem . . . chance before me today and do
kindness with my master Avrohom . . . the girl whom I
say,`Tip your pitcher . . . ' You will have demonstrated
that she is for Your servant Yitzchok . . . ' " The whole
sign concerned a matter of character traits, particularly
kindness. Why this trait especially? In order to uproot the
trait of Canaan, who were against kindness.
The gaon HaRav Eliyohu Lopian zt'l commented
on the posuk (18), "And she hurried and she took her
pitcher down onto her hand and gave him to drink," that the
Torah uses the expression "And she hurried," with alacrity,
when referring to her lowering the pitcher onto her hand.
How long would it have taken her to lower the pitcher
without hurrying? Not more than a moment. Yet even here, it
was possible to act swiftly and eagerly, lowering the
pitcher in even less time than usual. Such conduct is what
is known as zerizus, alacrity, and [is characteristic
of] the love of doing kindness!
We can learn an important lesson from this. If someone asks
a favor of his friend, even though he intends to do it
anyway, he should do it swiftly.
After having arranged this sign which indicated that the
girl was suitable for Yitzchok, Eliezer said (posuk
27), "Blessed is Hashem who has not forsaken His
kindness and His truth from my master. I went on the way
[and] Hashem guided me to the house of my master's brother."
Eliezer prayed and thanked Hashem. He rejoiced in Avrohom
Ovinu's celebration and fulfilled his master's wishes. He
forgot all about his own great desire that his daughter
should marry Yitzchok. As a result of this, Chazal say that
Eliezer became an exception to the curse that rests upon his
people, Canaan, and that he became the object of Hashem's
blessing instead (posuk 31, Bereishis Rabba 59:9). All
this was due to his faithful service to his master Avrohom
Ovinu as a result of which he deserved the title of "a