Can We Trust Ourselves?

When Eliezer, the servant of Avraham Avinu, relates to Besuel and Lavan the purpose of his mission, he repeats the conversation he had with Avraham Avinu when he was entrusted with this task of finding Yitzchak Avinu a bride.

“And I said to my master,” Eliezer recalls, “‘Perhaps the woman will not agree to go [back with me.]’”

Rashi notes that the word ulai (perhaps) is spelled here without a vav, as in eilai (to me).

For Eliezer himself had a daughter, and he was looking for a way that would make Avraham Avinu agree that Yitzchak marry her.

Yet earlier in the parashah, when the Torah tells us of that same conversation between Avraham Avinu and his faithful servant, the word is spelled in full, with a vav, without any indication of Eliezer’s ulterior motive. Why only when the conversation is repeated do we learn of Eliezer’s thoughts at that time?

The Kotzker Rebbe answers this question:

When Eliezer was speaking to Avraham Avinu, he himself didn’t realize that he was partial, that his motive in asking that question was his hope to be able to take Yitzchak as his own son-in-law. Only later, when he repeated the conversation to Besuel and Lavan, did he realize what his intentions really were.

In every aspect of our lives, the danger of negios — feelings of partiality and bias — exists. Often these feelings are so subtle that we don’t even realize that they’re there. On occasion they exist only in our subconscious mind. But they actively, albeit unwittingly, affect, influence and prejudice our decision-making process.

The area of shidduchim is no exception, and our negios play a role in virtually every angle of a matter whose difficulty Chazal have compared to Krias Yam Suf.

We all are aware of the shidduchim crisis, that far too many singles are still waiting to find their basherte. But too many of us treat this crisis like the weather: something to talk about but not do anything about.

There are many reasons people give for not suggesting a shidduch. Some feel that this should be left to professionals, others delude themselves into thinking that they don’t know anyone eligible. But can we honestly say that these reasons are not colored by negios? A significant percentage of successful shidduchim are in fact suggested by “amateurs.” Our own reticence is more likely prompted by a feeling of incompetence, or a fear of getting entangled in something more complicated than we can handle. Or it might be simply that doing nothing is easier than what often is arduous and draining work.

Giving information for a shidduch is another area in which negios are often an issue. The replies we give — both what we reveal and what we choose not to reveal — are often influenced by our personal likes or dislikes. Even a drop of (barely acknowledged) jealousy can have a disastrous impact on the words we choose to describe a person or family. In a similar vein, feelings of friendship or misplaced compassion may lead us to choose to conceal crucial facts that, according to halachah, one is required to reveal.

It is essential that everyone who is in a position to be approached about shidduch information be proficient in the practical application of the pertinent halachos, as laid down in sefer Chofetz Chaim. When necessary, a posek must be consulted .

Agreeing to or refusing a shidduch is another area in which one has to be on guard against negios, and here too a lesson can be learned from our parashah.

Harav Samson Raphael Hirsch, zt”l, says:

“It is significant that the one person whose wishes should have been regarded as decisive in this arrangement has nothing to say in the matter. Isaac, whose wishes should have mattered the most, remains silent throughout. While Rivkah is asked for her approval before any arrangements are made on her behalf, Yitzchak permits his father and his faithful servant complete freedom to act for him in a matter which, more than any other, will be decisive to his personal happiness.”

He goes on to explain that “Jewish marriages … are made on the basis of calm deliberation and careful reflection, testing whether the prospective partners are compatible emotionally and in character and personality, and all the other factors that determine marital happiness. These are considerations and reflections of which neither the young man nor the young woman is capable, but which are within the capability of the parents, relatives and friends of both parties… A Yitzchak who chooses his Rivkah on his own may well make a mistake, but a Yitzchak who permits his father Avraham to bring his Rivkah will rarely be disillusioned.” (Collected Writings, Vol. VIII, pp. 107-108.)

May we all merit to recognize our negios and be able to overcome them.