V’hayah ha’naarah asher omar eileha hati na kadeich v’eshteh, v’amrah she’seih v’gam gemalecha ashkeh, osah hochachta l’avdecha l’Yitzchak (Bereishis 24:14)
Eliezer established a litmus test to determine whether a potential match was the proper spouse for Yitzchak. The test revolved around her dedication to kindness, which would be evidenced by her willingness to give not only Eliezer but also his camels water to drink. Although a generous nature is certainly an important quality to seek in a prospective spouse, why was Eliezer willing to rely on this component without additionally testing her belief in Hashem, her wisdom, and her values?
Harav Meir Rubman answers based on a Mishnah in Avos (2:13), that says that Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai instructed his students to seek out the path in life that a person should choose. Rabi Eliezer said the possession of a good eye. Rabi Yehoshua answered to acquire a good friend. Rabi Yossi suggested finding a good neighbor. Rabi Shimon opined to see the consequences of one’s actions. Rabi Elazar posited the possession of a good heart. Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai responded that the final suggestion (a good heart) is the best one, as it includes all of the other characteristics. The Bartenura explains that this is because the heart is the origin of all of a person’s actions.
Eliezer carefully designed his test to measure the potential match’s love of assisting others. He understood that the amount of water needed to feed him and his 10 thirsty camels was tremendous. A young girl who was asked by a healthy man to draw so much water for him would typically respond by questioning why he couldn’t do so himself.
If a girl instead jumped at the opportunity, as did Rivkah, who ran to bring the water (24:20), it could only be due to her generous heart. Once Rivkah passed this test with flying colors, Eliezer knew with confidence — as the Mishnah teaches — that she possessed all of the other necessary qualities, and there was no need to test them.
The Gemara in Taanis (24a) teaches that if one sees a prospective bride whose eyes are of fine appearance, he needn’t examine her appearance further. The Kli Yakar (24:14) is astonished by this statement. Firstly, he notes that it isn’t true. Why does the Gemara advocate the selection of a spouse based on her physical appearance when Shlomo Hamelech writes (Mishlei 31:30) that charm is false and beauty is vain?
The Kli Yakar explains that the Gemara isn’t referring to a physical examination of the woman’s eyes, but is suggesting that one test to see whether she possesses an ayin tovah — a giving eye — as the most important feature of a woman is her generous spirit. The Gemara advises that once this has been established, no further checking is necessary, just as we learn from Eliezer.
Q: Rashi writes (23:2) that the death of Sarah is juxtaposed to the binding of Yitzchak to teach that the shock and fear from hearing that her son was almost slaughtered was the cause of her death. How is it possible that the mitzvah of binding Yitzchak caused the death of Avraham’s beloved wife when the Gemara in Pesachim (8b) teaches that those who perform mitzvos won’t be harmed in any way as a result of doing the mitzvah?
Q: The Baal HaTurim writes (23:2) that the letter chaf in the word v’livkosa (and Avraham cried over Sarah) is written smaller than the other letters in order to teach that he only cried over her a small amount. Why didn’t Avraham cry more over the loss of his beloved wife?
A: Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, explains that the intention of the Gemara is that performing a mitzvah won’t cause additional suffering. However, if a person’s natural time to die arrives and he is righteous, Hashem will cause him to die while doing a mitzvah. The Midrash teaches (Koheles Rabbah 3:22) that one who does a mitzvah right before his death is considered to have observed all of the mitzvos in the Torah.
The M’rafsin Igri answers that although Hashem normally protects a person while he is doing a mitzvah, this principle was not applicable to the Akeidah, the entire purpose of which was to test Avraham’s devotion to Hashem even in difficult circumstances. In this case, permission was given to the Satan to make the situation more difficult — even by showing Avraham that his actions caused the death of his beloved wife — in order to magnify the trial and enable Avraham to earn a greater reward.
A: The Baal HaTurim answers that he cried little because she was already so old. Alternatively, the Gemara in Bava Kamma (93a) teaches that Sarah was punished for demanding (16:5) that Hashem judge her claim against Avraham and died prematurely. Because she was considered partially responsible for her death, it was mourned with less intensity.
The Darkei Mussar points out that Avraham traveled three days to perform the Akeidah on Yom Kippur. By the time he returned home to bury and mourn Sarah, it was Erev Sukkos, so the mourning period was shortened to only one day. Alternatively, because Sarah left a righteous son to continue in her pious ways, she was considered on some level still alive, so the mourning was lessened.
The Kesef Nivchar cites the Gemara in Moed Kattan (27b) that teaches that one cries for the deceased for three days and mourns for seven. After traveling home for three days, only a few hours remained to cry.
The Kehillas Yitzchak explains that hearing about the Akeidah caused Sarah’s death, and Avraham didn’t want to cry excessively in a manner that could be interpreted by observers as regretting the Akeidah due to its consequences.
Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.