Thursday, November 01, 2018

Eliezer's tefilah / test

My son was complaining to me that if I don't write anything on the parsha it will be 2 straight weeks with nothing...

Had Eliezer followed Avraham's instructions he would have travelled to Aram Naharayim, asked around to find Avraham's family, knocked on the door, and hoped to find a suitable match for Yitzchak there.

But that's not what he did.  Aside from the whole test he setup to find a girl who excels at doing chessed (and if Avraham didn't tell him to do that, we should ask ourselves why Eliezer thought it necessary, but that's a different topic...), the Torah tells us that he davened.  "Vayomar Hashem Elokei adoni Avraham hakei na lifanay hayom v'aseh chessed im adoni Avraham..." (24:12).  According to Rashi, even the conclusion of Eliezer's description of the test he was setting up, "u'bah eidah ki asisa chessed im adoni," (24:14) is not a statement of fact. i.e. the test proves that Hashem did a chessed and he found the right girl, but rather is part and parcel of his tefilah, i.e. "u'bah eidah..." through this test I pray that I will know who the right girl is.  It's not a tefilah + a test, but it's one big tefilah that things work out (Ramban and others disagree). 

I think it's safe to assume that if we would say a little tehillim before embarking on an important project, the Avos and the people in their household would do no less.  Had the Torah not told us that Elizer davened, would we have assumed otherwise?  Of course not.  So while the details of the test might be necessary and relevant to the story, the question begs itself: why does the Torah feel the need to stress Eliezer's tefilah here?

The Sefas Emes asks the question, but I want to offer a different answer than the one he gives. 

There is an interesting machlokes in the meforshim how to interpret the tefilah of Eliezer.  Most (Targum Yonasan, Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Kli Yakar) interpret "hakrei na lifanei" to mean that Hashem should cause the right girl to appear before Eliezer.  However, Alshich and more clearly the Netziv read it differently.  Before Eliezer left Avraham's home, Avraham gave him a bracha: "Hu [Hashem] yishlach malacho lifanecha..." Hashem should send his angel along with him to help (24:4).  Now Eliezer gets to Aram Naharayim and he davens to Hashem, "hakrei na lifanei," you, Hashem, please appear before me.  It's not enough for me to have the help of a malach to pull this off -- I need you here with me.   

I think the Chazon Ish is quoted as saying that the last remnant of open hashgacha that we have left is in inyanei shidduchim.  It's not the shadchan, it's not even malachim, but it's Hashem himself who makes a match happen, even sometimes in the most unlikely situations.

That's perhaps why the Torah makes a point of including the tefilah of Eliezer.  Of course everything the Avos did was accompanied by tefilah.  But when it comes to the parsha of marriage, tefilah is not just a nice thing to do to accompany the mitzvah, but it is part and parcel of the mitzvah itself.  Since direct intervention of the yad Hashem is necessary, tefilah, dveikus with Hashem, asking Hashem for that direct involvement, is a must.


  1. "Hashem should send his angel along with him to help"

    twas the malach who caused the camels to kneel, 24:11 -- go BEFORE you/"lifanecha" to do the hechsher mitzvah -- the malach who indicated the test site: Eliezer was following Avraham's angel's "instructions"*! Once the angel took leave, Eliezer was left alone to petition Hashem for direct assistance, including in his prayer [the seemingly needless] pasuk thirteen: 'behold! it is exactly this site and this situation where Your malach has set me'...

    *and when did Hashem's angel's instructions to Eliezer begin? at 24:10 of course, that Eliezer should take only OFFSPRING of his master's camels (g'malim mi'g'malei adonav), ie. those born in Avraham's own house [see 'born in house or purchased with kesef', 17:12,13,23,27] -- those camels Avraham bought with money may have picked up 'bad vibes' from previous owners, vibes that could have compromised the Rivkah Pitcher Project

    1. "Hashem [H]imself...makes a match happen"

      >va'ye'sapeir< ha'eved all the things that he'd done with the help of Hashem: thus pasuk 24:66 meets the haggadic verse, everyone who discusses >lesapeir< yetzias Mitzrayim at length is praiseworthy. the matching verbs underscore the midrash (b.r. 68:4) and sotah 2a*, that matchmaking is as difficult for G-d as the splitting of the sea

      *should you object, 'but the Bavli speaks of a second marriage, not the first!'-- the marriage to Rivkah is the second pairing of the avos, deriving from both the merit of the first av to marry (the toldos of Yitzchak depend on his descent: Avraham ho'leed es-Yitzchak, 25:19), and the merit of a second Yitzchak (as 'resurrected' from his binding at the altar)

    2. (of course Hashem DID split the sea to arrange for His own marriage, for His wedding to klal Yisrael at Har Sinai [D.C. of Aug. 23, #2)]; dvar p'shat)

  2. [[[[[speaking of Pitcher Projects (comment 1), Yaakov avinu had one such mission of his own: regarding the two small jars which he went to retrieve (Chullin 91a), both contained leftovers, one of the reddish stew he'd served to his brother Eisav, the other of the meat he'd served to his father Yitzchak-- Yaakov intended to carry these keilim back to Machanayim and EMPTY THEM OUT before the sun rose on the new day with its pending encounter, hoping thus to put his offending machinations finally behind him. Eisav's angel strove to do that very evacuation himself, and with a vengeance (to the satisfaction of his client, as it were); the angel eventually wounded Yaakov's hip to convince younger brother that he'd now in no wise ever make it limping to Machanayim before sunrise, and so to send (shalcheini) his swift angelic self to empty the vessels in his stead (with the implicit threat to touch Yaakov's healthy hip too and disable him altogether); Yaakov insisted on getting the angel's blessing first...]]]]]