Marriage Made in Heaven
Rabbi Reuven Mann
This week’s parsha, Chaye Sara, takes up the story of Avraham’s plans for obtaining a wife for Yitzchak. He charged his servant Eliezer, in whose wisdom and integrity he had great confidence, to return to the land of his birth and find there a suitable mate for the next patriarch of the Jewish nation. He warned Eliezer not to allow his son to marry any woman from Canaan. He also prohibited him from uprooting Yitzchak from the land. If Eliezer could not persuade the woman he chose to come to Canaan the match would be off.
We can understand the daunting nature of the challenge confronting Eliezer. He was fully committed to the ideals for which Avraham lived. He recognized the greatness of Yitzchak and that he was destined to continue the work and perpetuate the teachings of his father. This parsha expresses the Torah philosophy of marriage, an institution which faces severe difficulties in this day and age. The divorce rate has never been higher and the ability of people to sustain enduring relationships has been eroded. The breakdown of the institution of marriage has had a negative impact on the fabric of our society and none have been more harmed than the children. What helpful lessons can we glean from our parsha?
Eliezer’s first decision was to go to the place where the young women he was looking for would gather, ie., the watering holes. This may seem obvious but it teaches an important lesson, namely, that whenever possible one should see things for himself. He wanted a personal encounter with the young lady who would catch his attention. Eliezer also engaged in prayer. The primary reason is because he realized how much he would need Divine assistance. Whenever one is engaged in very significant matters he should recognize his limitations and turn to his Creator for support and guidance. Prayer also has a practical benefit as it causes a person to clarify his thoughts and focus on those things that are truly important. Too many people are fixated on the superficial aspects of the mate they are searching for and base the bulk of their decision on looks and personality. The Torah does not disparage the importance of the externals. It points out about Rivka that the girl was “extremely good looking” and clearly this factored into Eliezer’s decision that she was “the one.” However, the Torah makes a clear distinction between “inner” and “outer” qualities. What matters most is a person’s character which is comprised of his virtues and values. Is the person wise, helpful, just, compassionate and committed to higher causes? Eliezer devised a test to gain an insight into the “stuff” of which Rivka was made. He would ask her for a drink of water and she would respond positively but then of her own accord offer to provide water for all of his camels. He would not ask her to water the camels: she would have to come up with this herself. Thus, it wasn’t so much that she would be willing to interrupt her own chores and perform the arduous task of providing water for ten camels. What counted most was that she volunteered to do this without being asked. The true character of a person is reflected in how he acts in situations where he has no formal obligations. This is called, “Lifnim Mishurat Hadin” (beyond the requirements of the Law). Her behavior revealed that she practiced chesed not out of obligation but because her heart and soul were fully directed to goodness and kindness. Eliezer recognized that her superficial beauty was important in enabling her to be successful in her role as the second Matriarch. However, what won him over was her inner essence of wisdom and love of chesed which his test was designed to uncover. Our Torah teaches, “charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the L—d, she shall be praised.” May we follow this wisdom.