Friday, October 29, 2010

Eliezer - shliach for kiddushin, birchas eirusin

Avraham administered an oath to Eliezer to ensure that he look for a bride for Yitzchak only from Avraham’s own family and not from the neighboring tribes. The Brisker Rav asks why an oath was necessary in this case. Tosfos (Kesubos 7b d”h she’ne’emar) writes that Eliezer served as a shliach, an agent, to effect the kiddushin of Yitzchak (see Maharil Diskin who discusses exactly how this shlichus worked, as under normal circumstances an eved may not serve as a shliach). If Reuvain appoints Shimon to serve as his agent to buy a red Toyota, but instead Shimon buys a green Ford, Reuvain doesn’t have to accept that green Ford – since Shimon violated the terms of his appointment, Shimon’s actions on Reuvain’s behalf are worthless. Since Eliezer was appointed only to take a bride from Avraham’s own family, kiddushin made with any other family should be automatically null and void even without an oath.

The Brisker Rav leaves this one unanswered, but I am wondering if there is a solution. The pesukim seem to suggest that Avraham was open to the possibility of marrying Yitzchak to someone else should Eliezer not find a willing bride from his own family. Perhaps Eliezer was appointed as an agent with a blank check – find a bride, ideally from family, but if not, another suitable candidate. If Reuvain appoints Shimon to buy a car and expresses a preference for a red Toyota, but is willing to accept a green Ford if there are no good deals on that red Toyota, Shimon has a lot more leeway. Perhaps an oath was necessary to cut down on Eliezer's leeway and guarantee he will make every effort to find a bride from Avraham's own family.

[Update: I should have thought about this more. The Brisker Rav probably also had in mind that Eliezer had a blank check shlichus. The question the Brisker Rav is driving at I think is why do things in that way -- why not appoint Eliezer a shliach to find a bride only from Avraham's family, which would eliminate the need for an oath.]

Tosfos writes that we learn from this incident that birchas eirusin may be recited when kiddushin are done by a shliach. Why would one think not? My first reaction is that Tosfos is getting involved in the classical question of who and whether a birchas hamitzvah can be recited where the ma’aseh mitzvah is done by one party but the kiyum mitzvah belongs to a different party. If birchas eirusin is a birchas ha’shevach and not a birchas hamitzvah, as some Rishonim indicate, then perhaps one might have thought there is no place for a birchas hashevach when the groom is not present to appreciate the new status of eirusin being created – again, this is basically the same idea of this case being special because the action is performed by one party but the kiyum, chalos, enjoyment, etc. coming to another.

My son did not like any of these type approaches. He reads Tosfos as telling us a chiddush in birchas eirusin in particular, not as a general rule that applies to all brachos or all other mitzvos. If that is the case, the question remains (which he does not yet have an answer for) as to why one might have thought birchas eirusin is unique.


  1. 1. Re: Eliezer having a blank check of sorts, isn't that the underlying premise of the famous Lavan bikeish laakor es hakol vort, based on ha-omer lishlucho tzei vekadesh etc?

    2. Re: the implications of the status of birchas eirusin as birchas hamitzvah versus shevach and whether it relates to the chasan exclusively or not, see
    for a good discussion (not entirely the point you are discussing but helpful).

    3. I know you have written before about how these types of exercises of trying to super-impose lomdus on the avos before matan torah makes sense, but this minei uvei doesnt. The Brisker Rav himself is the one who suggests that there was no chalos to kiddushin before matan torah (which is why Yaakov could marry two wives). This seems mefurash in the Rambam in the beginning of hilchos ishus (and see mahartz chayus sota daf 10). Add in Rashi's comment in the beginning of Avoda Zara 3a that the avos had a status of benei noach -- and therefore kiddushin did not apply (I know that is a machlokes but still worth adding) -- and I really dont get these discussions. I recognize that this is likely more a chisaron in me than the discussion but I still don't get it.

  2. >>>there was no chalos to kiddushin before matan torah

    Tosfos Kesubos 7 sounds like there must be a din of kiddushin or the whole discussion makes no sense.

    Re: #1, I forgot about that. Maybe I misunderstood the question - in fact, let me update the post. I'm blaming lack of enough coffee.

  3. Anonymous8:49 PM

    Very helpful post for the yid learning Kiddushin in shiur.
    @anon1 - Ya'akov was allowed to marry two wives, as we always been allowed to Min HaDin. Rabbeinu Gershom made a Gezeirah not to only two thousand years later (that only the Ashkenazim were Mekabel - hence some Sepharadim had two wives, namely the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh).
    The problem with Ya'akov was the he married two sisters, and according to some, that's why Rachel Imeinu died when he got to Eretz Yisrael, because in The Land, they almost always kept the all Mitzvot, Im Lavan Garti, Taryag Mitzvot Shamarti aside.

  4. anon11:20 PM


    I realized that re: two sisters/two wives. Was just typing too fast. There are of course other answers to the 2 sisters question other than the Griz (which I quoted) and the Ramban (which you quoted). My point was whether the two comments of the Griz are internally consistent.