This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Chayei Sarah (5771)
This week's Torah portion features the strange story of how a wife was found for the second of the three 'Fathers of Judaism; Isaac (Yitzchak) by Abraham's servant Eliezer.
Most other religions don't make much noise about marriage. Usually their founders were single, their priests don't marry and except for continuing the race, marriage hasn't much value.
But in Judaism marriage is so important that it is called "Kidushim' i.e. 'sactification' and not only were all its founders married but their wives were almost as important they themselves. Not only that but G-d's relation to the Jews is called Marriage and in mysticism G-d is called the 'groom' and the Jews His 'bride'.
So it doesn't seem to make sense why, in this weeks story, Abraham sent his non-Jewish servant to prepare this awesome union and didn't do it himself? Even more why did she have to be searched for at all?! Why didn't G-d just send the bride Himself in a miraculous way? That's a lot more Biblical
To understand this here is a story I heard just last week that happened recently.
Rabbi Yaakov (Pseudonym) was in prison in New York. When I heard this story everyone else in the room knew who he was and why he was there, but I didn't ask.
The main thing is that he was a Religious Jew in prison and the seven day holiday of Passover was approaching.
Passover is probably the worst time of the year for such a person to be in jail. First of all because it is the "Holiday of Freedom" commemorating the date the Jews were FREED from Egyptian imprisonment. And secondly because, besides the prohibition of eating bread or anything vaguely similar (i.e. beer), there are also six 'Holiday' meals (four on the first two days and two on the last), that require wine and Matzot; two commodities not usually found in a non-Jewish prison
But it seems that there was a young man from Chabad who visited the prisoners regularly and when he saw Rav Yaakov he went into action. He arranged that R.Yaakov's family supply him with; a large box of Matzot, a few bottles of wine (or perhaps it was grape juice) and a seven-day special Kosher-for-Passover food supply, all made according to the strictest Jewish qualifications, and got permission from the prison on the grounds that it was a special one-week diet.
The Matzot and wine were a small ray of light to R. Yaakov and as the saying goes, a little light can dispel much darkness. The miracle of having Matzot and wine encouraged Rav Yaakov to make is own little, personal, 'Exodus'.
Suddenly he had an idea; he would remove his mind from all the unhappy things around him and see only good. He could start from the Matzot and wine! Maybe his body was still in prison but his mind and soul certainly weren't! So he tried it …… and….. it worked! An amazing thing happened. As soon as he thought one good thing it dawned on him that he had more and more to be thankful about. First; he was alive, second; he was healthy. He had eyes, ears, teeth, lungs… suddenly the whole world was a symphony of G-d's kindness! It was all a miracle. He was free!
But two days later his balloon burst…. Almost!
Early in the morning a stern looking woman; the assistant warden, followed by two burly guards appeared before the bars of his cell door and one of them yelled out his name. She motioned to one of the guards who opened the door and they all entered. Then, she unceremoniously pointed to Rabbi Yaakov's box of Matzot and his few bottles of grape juice on the table. The guards mechanically picked them up, and she declared, "These are religious items and are not allowed in the prison without special permission." And they began to leave.
"But I got permission" Yaakov protested.
"Not for religious items" she replied dryly. "You received permission for food. But this is not food. It is religious! Fill out the papers and maybe in a few weeks we will look at it."
"Weeks?!" whined the Rabbi, "The holiday's over in a few days. Listen, please just let me have them just five more days!"
But his pleas fell on deaf ears. "Fill out the request form!" She barked as they left his cell and slammed the bars behind them.
"Well" he thought to himself, "at least I got to celebrate the first two nights properly."
But as the last day approached he began to get depressed again. Why couldn't she just have left those boxes?! He needed the Matzot and wine for the two holiday meals. He felt tired. Very tired. He sat on his bed, immersed in negative thoughts and dozed off. Behold… a dream!
He dreamt that the Lubavitcher Rebbe entered his cell and asked him why he was sad and reminded him that it is forbidden to be sad on a holiday. And he answered, 'I'm miserable because I'm in prison, it's Passover and I don't even have Matza and wine for the last day's meal."
"If that's why you are sad then don't worry" the Rebbe told him, "Soon you'll have those things."
Reb Yaakov awoke and realized it was just a dream; a very real dream but, after all, only a dream.
Two hours later, just one hour before sunset when the holiday would enter, the warden lady again appeared before his door, this time alone, knocked on the bars, entered and handed him his box of Matzot and one of the bottles of his wine that she had taken.
"Well, thank you!" Reb Yaakov said. "Hey! My request must have gotten answered in record time. Thanks! If you had anything to do with this then, thanks!"
"It wasn't because of any request," She said, "Just please do me a favor and don't tell anyone I took your Passover food or that I brought it back. Let's just forget the whole thing happened, okay?"
"Sure" Said Yaakov, "But I'm curious. Why did you bring these things back?"
"Why I brought them back?" She repeated his question, looking at him as though considering whether to answer or not. Finally she said. "Maybe two or three hours ago I fell asleep in my office and suddenly I had a dream. An old Rabbi with a white beard came to me and asked me why I don't give you back your Passover food. So I answered that Prison Rules don't allow it and second, I don't even know where they are anymore.
"So this Rabbi says. 'You didn't have to take away the food, so no one will know if you return it. And, if you go down to the next floor, there are three refrigerators in room 316, in the one on the right is a unopened bottle of his wine. Then go down another floor to the storeroom. On a shelf in back etc. etc. is a box of his Matzot. Both have his name written on it.'
"Then I woke up! At first I thought it was just a dream and I wouldn't pay attention but when out of curiosity I went to those places and, sure enough there were your things with your name on them, well I freaked out.
"I went to the chief warden, told him the whole story and asked if I could return your things. He told me that he didn't know I took it and he doesn't know I'm returning it. So here it is!"
Reb Yaakov saw a revealed miracle. But even more, his curiosity had been aroused, who was that Rabbi that appeared to the warden? So the next time he saw him he asked the young man from Chabad to bring a book with pictures of 'Tzadikim' (Holy Jews) so that perhaps the warden could identify the one that appeared in her dream.
She looked at the pictures, turning from page to page and occasionally pausing to examine one of the holy faces until she finally announced "Ah! Here! It was him."
Sure enough, it was a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
This answers our question:
The reason Abraham sent his servant to find his son's future bride and didn't go himself or ask G-d to make miracles was because he was beginning a new religion; Judaism. And the purpose of Judaism would be to reveal G-d 'down' in this physical world.
In fact that is why Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were called the 'Fathers' of Judaism, because their every thought, word and even deed, every instant of their lives was dedicated only to this purpose (Tanya Chap.23).
Just as in our story the prison, the warden and even dreams became vehicles for truth.
So, for the same reason that marriage is so important in Judaism; namely that it uses THIS PHYSICAL WORLD to serve the Creator, so too Abraham used his gentile servant and did not rely on miracles to find his son's future bride.
Because the purpose of Judaism is to reveal the Creator in EVERY ASPECT of His creation and that is exactly what Abraham was doing; using nature to reveal that everything is really above nature.
This will only be revealed fully with the arrival of Moshiach.
The Moshiach will be a Jew something like Moses and King David who will make the world a 'vessel' to Abraham's goal and to the blessings that G-d promised him: To be the "Father of ALL NATIONS" (16:5) and a "Blessing to the entire world".(22:18)
But it all depends on us now. We must use the world and everything in it for the same goal as Abraham did. One more good deed, word or even thought can bring…
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