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Parashat Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

“They called Rebecca and said to her, “Will you go with this man?”
And she said, “I will go.” (Genesis 24:58)

The Torah is typically parsimonious with words, so why is Parashat Chayei Sarah so gabby? Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for Isaac, his son. First, Eliezer devises his plan (Gen. 24:9-14). Then we read how the plan unfolds (Gen. 24: 15-26). Finally, when Eliezer meets Rebecca and is invited to her home, he tells B’tuel and Lavan, her father and brother, the whole story, again (Gen. 24:34-46). It takes up most of the parasha, or portion, and repeats many details. Why? Commentators believe it’s to highlight Eliezer’s faith in God.

Nechama Leibovitz, (1905-1997; a scholar who revolutionized the teaching of the weekly Torah portion worldwide) focuses on Eliezer’s declarations to B’tuel and Lavan and refers back to the Noah story to find deeper meaning. There, the Torah explains one reason the world needs to be destroyed is great men would, “…Take themselves wives, whoever they chose” (Breishit 6:2), meaning they took already married women (wives) for themselves (Breishit Rabbah 26:5). They don’t ask. They just take.

But Abraham is committed to righteousness. He doesn’t take or bully. Eliezer, his proxy, relies upon diplomacy and persuasion to achieve cooperation. Eliezer tells how God has singled out Abraham, who becomes wealthy and powerful. Moreover, Eliezer makes clear God intends Rebecca to marry Isaac. B’tuel and Lavan are convinced – God’s will is God’s will, after all (Gen. 24: 50-51) – and they turn to Rebecca to ask her opinion, and she agrees, readily (Gen. 24:58).

The early commentators conclude, “The conversations of the servants of the forefathers are more valuable than the Torah of their children,” (Breishit Rabbah 60): Eliezer is a model for effecting change.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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