Category Archives: Parshas Chayei Sarah

Parshas Chayei Sara: Please Walk In My Shoes!

Parshas Chayei Sara

Please Walk In My Shoes!

“I asked her and said, “Whose daughter are you?’ She replied, ‘The daughter of Besuel, son of Nachor, whom Milkah bore to him.’” I placed the ring on her nose and bracelets on her hands.” (Bereishis 24:47)

After Succos, many travelers had difficulty getting flights leaving Israel to return home, due to the terrible tragedies that occurred in Israel on October 7th. Some had to travel in roundabout ways, through different countries. One family was returning to London. There were not enough seats on the flight for their entire family. One of their children had to go by himself on a different flight. That child’s family noticed that there was another religious family on their child’s flight. They asked that family if they would watch their child. Of course, they agreed. In London, the customs agent was incredulous that a family had entrusted their child with “strangers”. He was also shocked that this family had accepted the responsibility of a stranger’s child. The couple told him that although they did not know the other people, they were all family. That is, all Jews are family!


There is an enormous quantity of items being sent to the Israeli soldiers and to the families that were displaced from their homes. The help that they are receiving from Jews around the world is unbelievable and so heartwarming. Groups are leaving their jobs for a week to bring supplies, to physically help on farms and in stores, to visit the wounded and to give encouragement. Some of the displaced families are living in hotels. Signs were posted to help them: “Who can do their laundry? Who is available to babysit? Who can cook a meal?” Someone who is not Jewish cannot comprehend that we are all one People and that we are there for each other.


Our forefather, Avraham, had sent Eliezer, his trusted servant, to find a wife for Yitzchok in Avraham’s hometown of Charan. Rashi (24:42) says that Eliezer miraculously arrived in Charan on the very same day that he left. He had his camels kneel near the well on the outskirts of the city. Eliezer davened to Hashem to speedily send the ideal wife for Yitzchok. Eliezer asked Hashem to clearly show him the prospective bride. The girl who would offer a drink of water to Eliezer and then would offer water to his camels, would be the suitable bride for Yitzchok. Rashi (24:14) explains that these acts would indicate a girl who is exceptionally kind, making her suitable to join the family of Avraham. In the middle of Eliezer’s prayer to Hashem, Rivkah was already at the well. Rabbi Yonoson Eybescheutz zt”l (quoted in Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin) says that the Torah (24:15) emphasizes that Rivkah carried her water pitcher on top of her shoulder to publicize that she had a pitcher available for anyone who needed to borrow it. Eliezer must have noticed this fact. Rashi (24:17) says that Eliezer also noticed that the water of the well miraculously rose-up to “greet” Rivkah. Seeing that miracle, Eliezer ran towards Rivkah. He asked her for a drink. She quickly gave him a drink, exhibiting the beautiful trait of zrizus, fulfilling a mitzvah with quickness. Then she offered to give water to Eliezer’s camels, “until they will have finished drinking” (24:19). That was a unique act of kindness as camels can drink up to 30 gallons of water! Rivkah also performed this mitzvah with quickness. With such a confluence of events, pointing to the fact that Rivkah was the “chosen” bride for Yitzchok, Eliezer was completely confident that Rivkah was indeed the intended bride. Even before confirming her identity, he gave Rivkah golden jewelry that had deep spiritual allusions (see Rashi 24:22). When Rivkah said that she was from Avraham’s family, that confirmed to Eliezer what, in essence, he had already known. The Radak says that at that point, Eliezer bowed to Hashem, showing his gratitude to Hashem for having listened to his prayer.


Eliezer went to Rivkah’s house to find lodging. He retold the events of the day to Rivkah’s family, to her father, Besuel, and to her brother, Lavan. He started by telling them of his miraculous, swift journey. Interestingly, Eliezer switched the order of one part of the story. He said that he had asked Rivkah who she was and then he presented her with the jewelry (24:47). Rashi explains Eliezer’s reason for changing the order as he told the story. He did this in order that Besuel and Lavan not catch him by his own words and say, “How could you give her the gifts before you knew who she was!”


How do we understand this Rashi? Akeidas Yitzchak (quoted in Artscroll Bereishis) gives one explanation. Eliezer said that he had come on a special mission to Avraham’s family to find a wife for Yitzchok. Had he admitted that he had given the jewelry to Rivkah before knowing to which family she belonged, this would have contradicted his previous assertion, since people do not give away gifts purposelessly.


This explanation is a little hard to understand. Wasn’t it obvious from Eliezer’s story that Hashem’s hand was at work? There were so many miracles which clearly indicated that Rivkah was Yitzchok’s intended bride. Even Besuel and Lavan realized that, as they said, “This is from Hashem (24:50).” Rashi explains that they meant, it is evident that the matter is from Hashem since, according to your words, Hashem brought her and you together. So, why did Eliezer feel the need to switch the order of events when he spoke to Besuel and Lavan? Rabbi Alter Henach Leibowitz zt”l (in Chidushei Lev by Rabbi Binyomin Luban) has a beautiful insight to explain this. Had Eliezer retold the story in the correct order, Besuel and Lavan would have thought that Eliezer was a liar. They would not have believed that Eliezer had given the jewelry before she told him who she was. They could not have believed that Eliezer had such trust in Hashem since they, themselves did not put their trust in Hashem! By nature, a person judges others by the level that he, himself, is on and based on his own feelings. Thus, Lavan and Besuel could not have imagined that Eliezer had acted so due to his trust in Hashem, since they did not have that trust themselves!


We see a similar idea illustrated in the Talmud (Shabbos 88A). A Saducee told Rava, a Talmudic sage, that the Jewish People acted too hastily, without thinking, when Hashem offered them the Torah. They responded, “We will do, and we will hear”. The Saducee asserted that this was an impetuous response. How can you accept something upon yourselves before knowing what it is that you are accepting? Rava said that the Jews’ response came from their total trust in Hashem. They had seen, firsthand, the miracles that Hashem had performed in Egypt and when Hashem had taken them out of Egypt. Since the Saducee himself did not trust in Hashem, he couldn’t fathom how others could.


At times, we judge people negatively, based on our standards and our level of understanding. We cannot be so quick to judge a person unfavorably. Unless we walk in a person’s shoes, we cannot judge them.


Parshas Chayei Sarah: Look Deep into your Heart!

Parshas Chayei Sarah

Look Deep into your Heart!


“I said to my master, Perhaps the woman will not come back with me?” (Bereishis 24:39)

For many years, twice a year a merchant sent an agent to the big fair. At the 1st fair of each year, he would buy a large quantity of merchandise from a particular wholesaler. He bought it on credit and repaid it when he returned for the 2nd fair. One day, the merchant told the agent that he wanted to buy an exceptionally large amount of goods without ever paying for it. The agent did not want to be dishonest, but he also did not want to anger his employer. When he arrived at the fair he went to the wholesaler and said, “My master has asked me to buy the largest possible quantity of goods I could get from you on credit. I pointed out that I doubted that you would let us do that. I am not even sure that our firm is in the financial position to engage in such a transaction. My employer became quite angry at me when I told that to him.”  After hearing this, the wholesaler refused to sell him any merchandise at all. (The Maggid of Dubna & his Parables by Benno Heinemann)


Our forefather Avraham felt that it was time to find a suitable wife for his son, Yitzchak. The woman had to be very special, as she would be the next link in the chain of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Avraham sent his trusted servant, Eliezer, to Avraham’s homeland, to find such a woman. Avraham made it clear that he did not want Yitzchak to marry a Canaani woman. Avraham asked Eliezer to swear that he would fulfill his mission faithfully. The Torah (Bereishis 24:5) relates Eliezer’s followup question to Avraham. He wanted to know what to do if, “Perhaps the woman shall not wish to follow me to this land.” The Hebrew word for “perhaps” was written as “אוּלַי”. Eliezer left for his mission, traveling to Aram Naharaim. Hashem performed many miracles to help Eliezer succeed in his task: Eliezer’s travel was unusually quick, and he reached his destination on the same day that he started on his journey (Rashi 24:42). Eliezer had asked Hashem to show him certain signs indicating the right wife for Yitzchak. All those signs happened. When Rivka drew water from the well, it miraculously rose-up to “greet” her (Rabbeinu Bachya 24:16). When Rivka told Eliezer that she was from Avraham’s family, Eliezer knew with certainty that Hashem had led him to Yitzchak’s future wife (Although Eliezer knew that with certainty, even before Rivka confirmed that fact). Eliezer followed Rivka to her house and told her father, Besuel, and her brother, Lavan, the purpose of his mission. He praised Avraham and Yitzchak. Eliezer then added some words that seemed to be unnecessary. He repeated the question that he had asked Avraham about what he should do if, “Perhaps the woman will not follow me.” This time, the Torah spells the Hebrew word as, “אֻלַי”, without the letter vav. Rashi (24:39) says that the word as it is written,

“אֵלַי”, means “to me”. Eliezer also had a daughter of marriageable age. The Torah tells us what Eliezer had hinted to Avraham when he was first sent on his mission. If the woman wouldn’t follow Eliezer, then Avraham should turn “to me” to take my daughter as a wife for Yitzchak.


Many of the commentators question why Eliezer chose to repeat his question to Besuel & Lavan.  It was proper to ask Avraham what he should do if, “Perhaps the woman will not follow me”. But what was the point in saying it to Besuel and Lavan?

Rav Ovadia from Bartanura explains that Eliezer said it to help convince Besuel and Lavan to permit Rivka to marry Yitzchak. Eliezer wanted to infer that Yitzchak was so special that Eliezer, himself, wanted Yitzchak as a son-in-law.

The Dubno Maggid, and Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik zt”l explain that Eliezer wanted his mission to fail! He wanted Besuel and Lavan to refuse to send Rivka, thus opening the way for Eliezer’s own daughter to marry Yitzchak.

Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik zt”l (quoted in sefer Ituri Torah by Rabbi Aharon Yaakov Greenberg) says that Eliezer’s comment could have caused Besuel and Lavan to wonder why the potential wife would not come. Was it because there was something wrong with Yitzchak?  That concern could have caused them to refuse to send Rivka, thus opening the possibility of Eliezer’s daughter marrying Yitzchak.

The Dubno Maggid (The Maggid of Dubna & his Parables by Benno Heinemann) also asks why Eliezer repeated the comment to Besuel & Lavan. He asks an additional question of why Rashi comments on the second time that Eliezer said it and not when he initially said it to Avraham. The Dubno Maggid concludes that Eliezer did not want his mission to succeed.  By saying this comment, he hoped to influence Rivka’s family to refuse to allow her to marry Yitzchak. Thus, he implied “אֻלַי”, that Avraham would have to turn to Eliezer to ask him to allow his own daughter to marry Yitzchak. The Dubno Maggid illustrated this with the parable that was written in the beginning of the dvar Torah.


I find it hard to believe that Eliezer would want his mission to fail. He was Avraham’s trustworthy servant for many years. Avraham even trusted Eliezer to manage all his wealth. Rav Eliyahu Lopian zt”l (Lev Eliyahu on the Torah) says that Eliezer had control of his evil inclination just as Avraham had. He also taught Avraham’s Torah to others. Furthermore, he also swore to Avraham that he would be dedicated to his mission. When Eliezer saw all the miracles that occurred, it should have been obvious that Rivka was the bride that Hashem had chosen. How could such a great person try to sabotage the success of his mission?


Perhaps we can understand the explanation of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik zt”l and the Dubno Maggid as Rabbi Menachem Mendel from Kotz understands it. The Kotzker Rav zt”l (quoted in Ituri Torah) says that Eliezer was sincere and definitely wanted his mission to succeed. However, subconsciously, he wanted it to fail. Once he saw Rivka and all the miracles that Hashem had performed, Eliezer knew that Hashem had chosen Rivka to be the bride for Yitzchak. That caused Eliezer to think back to his initial conversation with Avraham. It was only now that he recognized what his original subconscious motives were. Rashi says that is why the Torah changed the spelling from “אוּלַי“ to “אֻלַי ” now, because it was only now that Eliezer realized this.


When we do an action, we have so many thoughts swirling in our minds and in our subconscious. Are our actions totally pure or do we have other motivations in our subconscious that we don’t even realize? We must analyze our thoughts very carefully so that we serve Hashem properly.