Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dvar Torah for Parshas Chayei Sarah

       Parshas Chayei Sara begins the next chapter in Jewish history, with the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivka. Avraham sends his trusted servant, Eliezer, to Aram Naharayim to find Yitzchak a wife, while giving him strict instructions on how to do so. Upon arrival at the well outside the city, Eliezer davens to Hashem that He should send him the right girl. Eliezer gives several conditions on how he will know it is the right one. All of these conditions are filled and Eliezer finds Rivka immediately.
       Eliezer goes with Rivka to tell her family the news that he wants her to marry Yitzchak. He proceeds to tell the story of his journey over to the family, beginning from when he got his instructions from Avraham and his prayers to Hashem at the well, until he found Rivka, telling them the exact actions he did during the entire period. In fact, it is pretty much the previous thirty pesukim repeated verbatim! It is very uncharacteristic of the Torah to repeat so many pesukim over again, especially when there does not seem to be any special reason to telling the story over to Rivka’s family.
       Rashi asks this question and gives an answer: “אמר רבי אחא יפה שיחתן של עבדי אבות לפני המקום מתורתן של בנים “Said Rabbi Acha, we see that the conversations of the servants of our forefathers are greater before Hashem than the Torah of their children (because this conversation is recorded in the Torah and many fundamentals of the Torah are learned through allusions)” (Bereishis 24:42). My first reaction when reading this Rashi is what exactly does that mean? There are many laws that we only learn out from extra letters, similar words, and other allusions, while this story is written out completely twice. Why is this so? What is it about a simple story that could be more precious than writing down the exact way to keep the Torah?
       The answer is that there are some things in life that can be learned from books and some things that cannot. Judaism is a very hands-on religion; in order to know how to do it properly, you need someone to show you; but learning out the Torah’s laws is different. Hashem taught Moshe thirteen ways to derive different laws from the Torah, and we use each one of those thirteen many times over in order to learn out every single detail that we need to do the mitzvos perfectly. However, some things cannot be given over through allusions. In order to know the proper way to act, to live, to treat others, to actually perform the mitzvos, we need someone to tell us and show us exactly how to do it. Therefore, in some cases, it was more important to write down the stories of our forefathers that teach us how to act, than to write the actual acts that we must perform.
       So what act do we learn from the story of Eliezer that the Torah needs to repeat it? Let’s take a look at the placement of Rashi’s explanation. Rashi places his answer in pasuk 42, right in the middle of Eliezer’s story. If he wanted to teach us how important this story was, why didn’t he put his explanation at the beginning? Or, in order to summarize this whole episode, why didn’t he place it at the end? The lesson we are supposed to learn must be in that pasuk where Rashi comments.
       The pasuk reads, “וָאָבֹא הַיּוֹם אֶל הָעָיִן וָאֹמַר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲדֹנִי אַבְרָהָם אִם יֶשְׁךָ נָּא מַצְלִיחַ דַּרְכִּי אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הֹלֵךְ עָלֶיהָ“So I came today to the well, and I said, ‘Hashem, God of my master, Avraham, if you desire to prosper my way upon which I am going” (ibid.). This pasuk describes when Eliezer arrives at the well and begin davening to Hashem that He should help him find the right girl. I believe that the connection here is obvious. The Torah is teaching us that when you are in a time of need, there is one place you can always turn to. Hashem is always waiting to hear your tefillos, no matter how difficult and helpless the situation might seem.
       Eliezer was sent to find Avraham’s family and bring back a girl for Yitzchak to marry. He did not know who they were and he didn’t even think they would be interested in coming with him! Furthermore, how was he supposed to pick the right girl for the son of Avraham, someone who was already a great person in his own right! How in the world was he supposed to find the right girl? He did the only thing he knew to do, he did what he had learned by living in Avraham’s house, in his time of need, he turned to Hashem and davened that everything should go smoothly.
       The connection to us is clear. We must learn from Eliezer and realize that there is one line that is never unavailable, it is our line to Hashem. Let us use this same tool that our Avos used and through tefillah, connect to them and Hashem in ways other things cannot compare.

Shabbat Shalom!


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