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Parashat Chayei-Sarah: The Greatness of Eliezer

The Greatness of Eliezer

In Parashat Chayei-Sarah the Torah tells of the search for a bride for Yitzchak, a task that Avraham assigned to his faithful servant, Eliezer. The Rabbis teach that Eliezer himself had a daughter, whom he had wished and expected would marry Yitzchak. After all, who would be a more suitable candidate to become Avraham's daughter-in-law? Eliezer was Avraham's devoted disciple for seventy years, an accomplished scholar and teacher, who, as the Rabbis describe, "drew water" from his teacher's infinite wellsprings of wisdom and disseminated this wisdom to others. It was only natural for Eliezer to assume that he would earn the distinction of joining Avraham's family, that his daughter would be chosen as a wife for Yitzchak.

However, Avraham informed Eliezer that his daughter could not marry Yitzchak. Eliezer descends from Canaan, who was cursed by his grandfather, Noach. This curse remains with Canaan's descendants for eternity, and a person of such lineage is not qualified to join the blessed family of Avraham.

We can only imagine Eliezer's disappointment upon hearing Avraham's response. But Avraham not only refused to allow Yitzchak marry Eliezer's daughter, he assigned Eliezer the task of finding the right girl!

Imagine a man who lives next to an attorney, and he frequently consults with him to receive legal advice. The neighbor graciously spends the time going over his documents and offering his professional opinion, as a neighborly favor. But then, when the man needs to hire a lawyer to oversee a major transaction, not only does he not select his friendly neighbor, but he asks the neighbor to recommend another lawyer. And after the deal is completed, he gives the neighbor the $35,000 check and asks him to give it to the other attorney!

Eliezer, Avraham's loyal servant and disciple for seventy years, had reason to feel slighted. Nevertheless, he executes his mission faithfully and masterfully, praying to God to assist him and employing every technique he could to win a favorable response on the part of Rivka's family. Avraham had told him that if the suitable girl refuses to come to marry Yitzchak, then Eliezer is excused from this mission. He could have easily gone to Rivka's family without making any effort to secure their consent, so that he would return to Canaan without a match, in which case Avraham might rethink his decision and allow Yitzchak to marry Eliezer's daughter. Instead, Eliezer makes every effort to ensure the success of his mission, that he would return to Canaan with the ideal match for Yitzchak.

Eliezer learned this trait from Avraham himself. As we read last week in Parashat Vayera, Avraham prayed on behalf of Avimelech, the king of Gerar, who was punished for abducting Sara. Despite the pain Avimelech inflicted on Avraham and his wife, he nevertheless agreed to pray on his behalf, and felt concerned for his well-being. Eliezer observed this and followed Avraham's example. Even though he felt slighted, even though he may have had a valid grievance, he nevertheless put his selfish interests aside and executed his mission in good faith.

For this reason, the Torah elaborates at such length on the story of Eliezer. Some of the most important Mitzvot of the Torah are covered in just several verses, but the stories of the patriarchs – and, in this case, even of their servant – are given dozens upon dozens of verses. Each day we must ask, "When will my deeds reach the deeds of my forefathers?" We are to study and gain inspiration from the story of Eliezer, and work towards implementing these critical lessons in our own lives and following in the footsteps of our holy ancestors.