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Friday, November 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

Avraham Avinu sends his servant to find a suitable mate for his son, Yitzchak. As he reaches his destination, the servant prays to HaShem. He declares (24:14) "The maiden to whom I will say, 'Tilt your pitcher so that I may drink' and she will say, 'Drink and I shall give your camels to drink as well' it is she whom You have designated for Your servant, Yitzchak." Indeed, Rivkah comes out and when asked to spare some of her water, she gives to the servant and pours the rest into the trough for the camels to drink. While she returns to the well to refill her pitcher, the Torah recounts that the servant was (24:21) "wondering... had HaShem made his journey prosperous or not." Rivkah seemed to have fulfilled his criteria mentioned above. Why was he still uncertain as to his success?

Rashi comments that the servant had not yet ascertained that she was from Avraham's family. Although this is true, he never mentioned that as a condition to begin with. The Maharsha makes this very point. The gemara (Taanis 4a) lists three Biblical figures who made improper requests of HaShem. One of the three is Eliezer, Avraham's servant. Even had his prayer been answered, argues the gemara, the generous girl could very well have been lame or blind. Maharsha asks why the gemara did not criticize Eliezer for not having requested a member of Avraham's family. However, he concludes that the end of his prayer "and I will thereby know that You have done chesed with my master" was ultimately another way of requesting that the girl be from Avraham's family.

Shaarei Aharon, based on Radak, explains that Rivkah had really not yet fulfilled the servant's criteria. There are many people who speak of doing chesed, but only the true generous person will actually carry out their offers. Anyone could have offered to feed the camels. But that wasn't enough. The servant was waiting to see if Rivkah was sincere about her offer. This sincerity was a trait of Avraham and only with that would she show that she was from his family. In essence, the condition that the girl should be from Avraham's family was subsumed in the initial criteria.

Malbim explains similarly that the servant was suspicious that perhaps Rivkah was being so kind in order to ultimately request payment for her toil. That would clearly have disqualified her. This explains why the servant did not take any action until the camels finished drinking. Even the fact that she brought the water was no proof that she was the one until he was certain that this was a wholehearted act of kindness.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
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