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24 Cheshvan 5761 - November 22, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
A Faithful Servant: A Shmuess For Parshas Chayei Soroh

By HaRav Sholom Schwadron zt'l

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 Avrohom Ovinu.

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 to others.

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 there.

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 Canaanite daughters.

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 Egypt.

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!

Despite Himself

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 more!

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 blessed."

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!

Pure Motivation

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 is impossible.

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 him.

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 me?"

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 faithful servant!"

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