5767 - #07
A RETURN HOME
24:4 informs us of Avraham Avinus
request of Eliezer to travel to Avrahams homeland
and place of birth in search of a bride for Yitzchak Avinu.
The language is most interesting in that it immediately
reminds us of the famous words of Bereishit
12:1 where Avraham is commanded lech
lecha martzecha umimoladetecha,
from your homeland and your place of
birth...1 Here Avraham
commands Eliezer, el artzi vel
moladeti teileich, to my
homeland and my place of birth, go. Notwithstanding
the famous words of
There is much in the simple narrative of this story of the finding of a wife for Yitzchak that raises our curiosity. The declaration that Avraham does not wish for a wife for Yitzchak to be from amongst the Canaanites seems to make perfect sense; the Canaanites are particularly noted for their corrupt ways. The straightforward reading of the story would seem to be that Avraham is simply telling Eliezer that he should find a good wife, from a fine family, for Yitzchak. Yet, is it true that there was no good family in the immediate vicinity? Does Malki-Tzedek -- who Rashi, Bereishit 14:18 states is Shem ben Noach not live in the area?2 And what about the family from which Eliezer eventually chose a mate for Yitzchak? Betuel and Lavan are not exactly shining examples of the kind of in-laws we wish are children to have.3 The fact is that Avraham does declare that he does not wish a wife for Yitzchak from the Canaanites amongst whom he dwells -- but his prime directive to Eliezer is simply to find a wife from that area, from the land from which he came. Avrahams directive is not similar to Yitzchaks directive to Yaakov Avinu to go and chose a wife from Rivkas family, specifically from the daughters of Lavan.4 Avrahams directive is much more general. Return to the homeland. Eliezer is to return to the place from where Avraham came in order to choose a wife for Yitzchak (even as Yitzchak is not to personally travel to this place.) The question is simple: what is the importance of this return home?
Whenever we consider the issue of marriage a dilemma is encountered. In one way, marriage is personal, specific and individualistic. The search is for the one. Rabbi Uziel Milevsky, Ner Uziel, Chayei Sarah, A Wife for Yitzchak asks: why did Avraham wait until Yitzchak was forty before initiating this search for a wife for Yitzchak? He answers that Avraham knew, through prophecy, that Yitzchaks soulmate was not yet born. Why, thus, even bother to look? Vilna Gaon, Even Shelaima, in fact, writes that one of the functions of the prophets was to inform individuals of their soulmates. In finding a spouse, we are not really going through a process of choice; we are discovering a link which already exists. General broad rules for searching for a spouse become irrelevant within this perspective. How can one say not to choose from amongst the Canaanites for it may be that the one is amongst the Canaanites?
Yet, Avraham presents general principles in describing how he wishes this search for a wife for Yitzchak to be conducted. This is the other side of marriage. We must perceive the process of finding a spouse within the context of choice and thus must consider what we wish in this process.5 It is within this context that Avraham can declare that he wishes the choice to avoid the Canaanites and the environment of corruption in which members of this nation grew up. Perhaps Avraham could have simply told Eliezer to go and bring back Rivka, Yitzchaks soulmate. Yet the Torah presents this episode within this context of choice, within a realm of the objective determination of a spouse rather than the subjective. The challenge is to determine this objective principle and, most importantly, its value.
As stated, the simplest way of understanding Avrahams directive is to state that he wished the search for a spouse to be conducted within a population that was more righteous rather than amongst a population that was extremely corrupt. Yet, that assertion, as shown above, is easily challenged. It is also not what Avraham said. His reference to the Canaanites includes simply the statement that he dwells amongst them, not a reference to their corruption.6 Avraham simply wishes a wife, for Yitzchak, from Avrahams homeland, from Avrahams birthplace, not from the people amongst whom he presently dwells.7 Within this objective realm of how to choose a spouse, Avraham is stating that he wishes to avoid the population that immediately surrounds him and wishes an environment of a past homeland.
As we go through life, we always face the question of how to relate to our beginnings. The more our life takes us on a path away from these beginnings, the more powerful and intriguing this question becomes. Avraham is told to leave his birthplace and travel to a new land for it is in this new land that he will become the father of nations and specifically, one special nation. The implication is that he is to break away from his past to build a different present and future. Yet, at this important juncture in the development of this dream, he declares that there must be a return to the past. Yitzchak cannot choose a wife from amongst those who share the moment. He must choose a wife from the world of the beginning. As much as we may move away from our starting point, we must still recognize that this starting point is still our starting point. It is our beginning; it will always play a significant role in who we are, in the definition of our essence. 8 It is this connection to his roots that Avraham wishes to give Yitzchak. He does not wish for Yitzchak to return to this source of his roots for, thereby, the past may adversely affect the movement into the future. Yitzchak must be cemented in the present and the future. Yet, the present and the future cannot be divorced from the past and Yitzchak must still forge the connection. Lifes journey is significant because it is a journey and the start and finish of this journey must always be in sight. To draw a wife from the surrounding peoples will truncate this vision of the journey as the role, strength and place of the past will be lost. The Imahot, the mothers of the Jewish People, must also go through the same journey as Avraham did in order to maintain this vision of the journey in the genesis of the nation. Avrahams call to Eliezer was to choose a wife for Yitzchak from Avrahams roots. Thereby Avraham is informing us that, even as we grow beyond our starting point, we must always recognize the existence of our roots.
Rabbi Benjamin Hecht e-mail
people usually quote Rambam's Eighth
Principle of Faith(as found in his
Commentary to the Mishna, Sanhedrin, Perek Chelek,
Introduction) in regard to the necessary
belief in Sinai as the source of the Written Torah,
Rambam clearly includes the Oral Torah in this principle,
both in regard to its origin and its accuracy, at least
in regard to matters clearly enunciated at Sinai.
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