Gleanings From Parashas Chayei Sarah
Why did Avraham insist that Eliezer take a wife from his own family? 24.3 “And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. 4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son, even for Isaac.’ ”
Avraham knew Milcah had bore children. Genesis 22:19-21 19 “So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba. 20 Now it came about after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, “Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz his firstborn and Buz his brother and Kemuel the father of Aram….”
for Shalom HaBayit – so that Rivka, who adamantly said, Aileich “I will go” (see below on verses 36 & 67) and Yitzchaq (Rebecca and Isaac and their descendants) could speak the same language (lashon haqodesh), be engaged with Torah (“…it is near thee and in thy mouth…. and Moshe spoke all the words of this song….”) and understand the mitzvot – the daughters of Canaan did not speak Hebrew!
Nehemiah 13:24 “Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.… ”
Whereas, the inhabitants of the city of Nachor, Avraham’s kindred spoke Hebrew – from these verses we can plainly see that they spoke the same language:
24.14 ” So let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say: Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give….”
44 “and she shall say to me: ‘Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels’; let the same….”
24.50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said: ‘The thing proceedeth from the LORD; we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.”
(31.24 “Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” “)
Avraham knew that (“it is good that a man not be alone” and, “be fruitful, multiply…”) Isaac needed to be consoled because of Sarah his mother – he missed and longed for the lessons of kindness that were on her tongue Proverbs 31:26
“They called Rebecca and said to her “Will you go with this man?’ She said: ‘I will go.'” vaTomeer Aileich
She said: “I will go.” RASHI: Of my own accord. Even if you do not want [me to].
YOCHANAN: “And she said, [of Divine Inspiration] “I will go.” וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלֵךְ.
21.6 “And Sarah saidוַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרָה : ‘God hath made laughter for me; every one that heareth will laugh on account of me.’ ”
24.51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken.’
Rivkah (Rebekah) saw Eliezer prostrate before HaShem and heard Eliezer pray to HaShem, and heard all that Eliezer said to Laban her brother, and to Bethuel her father; and she heard what they said about the “shidduk of HaShem” (51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee, [she was within their presence] take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken.’ )
YOCHANAN: as the LORD hath spoken – concerning your master Avraham, “that he and his descendants shall inherit the land of the Canaanites.”
on hearing the words of verse 24.36 she spoke intuitively by Divine Inspiration – she knew that she would be a comfort to and comfort Isaac – “I will go.” וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלֵךְ.
(24.36 “And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; אַחֲרֵי, זִקְנָתָהּ and unto him hath he given all that he hath.” (was old, past tense – she sensed Isaac’s need to be comforted, and recognized he was alone, needing consolation) ) – “and unto him hath he given all that he hath.” was of secondary importance to Rivkah!
24.67 “And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for his mother.”
So the sequence of events is, Rivkah (Rebekah who had the nose ring and bracelets on her wrists as payment for the water and watering of the camels) saw Eliezer prostrate before HaShem and heard Eliezer pray to HaShem, while not forgetting that she had the nose ring and bracelets on her wrists (she saw the great wealth Eliezer had as well as his generous payment for the water for his masters “ten camels”,) and heard all he said to Laban her brother, and to Bethuel her father; and she heard what they said about the “shidduk of HaShem” – (51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee, [she was within their presence] take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken.’ )
So, she saw Eliezer’s wealth, saw and heard him worship, heard him recount all this to Laban her brother, and to Bethuel her father. Strikingly, the Torah 24.36 says she heard of Sarah’s death before she heard that her mate would inherit Avinu Avraham! The Torah takes the pain to list what is important first – Sarah’s death and thus ending the account of Isaac and Rivka’s marriage with Isaac’s needing comfort and being comforted. Genesis 24:67
A side note: Laban said to Eliezer, “24.31 And he said: ‘Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without? for I have cleared the house, and made room for the camels.’ 32 And the man came into the house, and he ungirded the camels; and he gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men that were with him. 33 And there was set food before him to eat; but he said: ‘I will not eat, until I have told mine errand.’ And he said: ‘Speak on.’ ” Here, it seems as if Laban was “familiar” with “the Blessing of HaShem”. Perhaps it was not his custom to greet strangers in this manner. For Eliezer later introduces himself with the simple statement, “I am Avraham’s servant.” as [if really…] Avraham was already known to them – “And Avraham took Sarah …. and the souls they had made” – he began in Ur of Chaldees to preach monotheism – went to Haran (whereas Avraham’s brother settled in Aram-naharaim, the city of Nachor); it seems as if he said, (when he saw 24.30) “And he said: ‘Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without?” out of concern for the man’s wealth or safety (It was evening ….11 And he made the camels to kneel down without the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time that women go out to draw water.) – He cleared the house hoping for payment from Eliezer. 53 “And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah; he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.” (after the matter of the marriage was settled)
RASHI: and Laban ran: Why did he run and for what did he run? “Now it came to pass, when he saw the nose ring,” he said, “This person is rich,” and he set his eyes on the money. — [Gen. Rabbah 60:7]
send His angel – 24.40 And he said unto me: The LORD, before whom I walk, will send His angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father’s house; –
12 And he said: ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, send me, I pray Thee, good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham.
וַעֲשֵׂה–חֶסֶד, עִם אֲדֹנִי אַבְרָהָם
וּבָהּ אֵדַע, כִּי–עָשִׂיתָ חֶסֶד עִם–אֲדֹנִי.
24.14 So let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say: Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also; let the same be she that Thou hast appointed for Thy servant, even for Isaac; and thereby shall I know that Thou hast shown kindness unto my master.’
RASHI: that You have performed loving-kindness: If she will be from his family and fit for him, I will know that You have performed loving-kindness.
49 And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.’
A Difficulty – 24.3 And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell.”
You might think, Avraham dwelt amongst the “daughters of the Canaanites;” but this must be understood as clairified by Eliezer’s statement (24.37), “the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell” – a lesson – the daughters of the Canaanites inherited their fathers land, not so with the sons of Avraham which is something “secondary” in the Torah – had Isaac married one of the daughters of the Canaanites, then Isaac would not have inherited the land – this would negate the “Covenant Between the Parts” causing friction between Isaac and the Canaanites.
B’midbar (Numbers) 27.1, 2 “the daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They came forward and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said,”
24.15 And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, מִלְכָּה the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.
Again, Why did Avraham insist that Eliezer take a wife from his own family? There was already friction between the herdsmen over the wells Avraham’s servants had dug (21.25 so Avraham made a covenant of peace with Abimelech) and friction between Isaac’s servants and the Canaanites over the wells 26.15-33 Isaac dug. (the water [or “interpretation”] is ours 26.20) 24.32 And the man came into the house, and he ungirded the camels; and he gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men that were with him [refreshing for the feet and the souls of men worn out from a journey].
A side note: The covenant Avraham made with Abimelech was about the kindness to the land, digging the wells and planting the trees 21.23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son; but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.‘
Where was Avraham that he allowed Sarah to be taken by Abimelech’s servants?
He was praying in the orchard he planted in Beer Sheva! Sarah died in Chevron and Avraham dwelt in Beer Sheva 1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the land of the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. (but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.‘)
20.31 Wherefore that place was called Beer-sheba; because there they swore both of them. 22.19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba. Genesis 21:33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God.
24.37 And my master made me swear, saying: Thou shalt not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell.
24.7 “The Lord, God of the heavens, Who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and Who spoke about me, and Who swore to me, saying, ‘To your seed will I give this land’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.”
YOCHANAN: from there – from the place [miSham] where the angel is before you … when you see that “my father’s house” is G-d-fearing as you are – that they show kindness to strangers 24.50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said: ‘The thing proceedeth from the LORD; we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.
The thing – הַדָּבָר the chesed, kindness, speech- word 24.44 “and she shall say to me: ‘Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels‘; let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed for my master’s son.” Here, they recognize Rivkah’s words to Eliezer were really from HaShem!
from the LORD: Here, they recognized HaShem!
RASHI: We cannot speak to you: to refuse in this matter, either with an unfavorable reply, or with an appropriate reply, because it is obvious that the matter has emanated from the Lord, according to your words, that He designated her for you.
Rav Hirsch notes the servant deemphasizes what for us is the central reason Rivkah was chosen – the test of kindness. To Lavan and Betuel, the entire test would have been seen as sentimental and comical – not becoming for such a serious matter. For us, however, only the chessed she performed justified her becoming a mother of the Jewish people.
RASHI: The Lord, God of the heavens, Who took me from my father’s house: But he did not say, “and the God of the earth,” whereas above (verse 3) he said, “And I will adjure you [by the Lord, the God of the heaven and the God of the earth].” He said to him,“Now He is the God of the heaven and the God of the earth, because I have made Him familiar in the mouths of the people, but when He took me from my father’s house, He was the God of the heavens but not the God of the earth, because mankind did not acknowledge Him, and His name was not familiar on the earth.”
24.35 And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great; and He hath given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and men-servants and maid-servants, and camels and asses.
YOCHANAN: and he is become great (past tense) – a lord and prince – he defeated Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him unscathed – 18.18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
23.6 ‘Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us; in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.’
24.35 “And the Lord blessed my master exceedingly, and he became great, מְאֹד—וַיִּגְדָּל and He gave him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, man servants and maid servants, camels and donkeys.”
Here, greatness is distinguished from wealth. He became “great” through preaching Monotheism!