Parshat Hayye Sarah
יב וַיֹּאמַר ה אֱלֹהֵי אֲדֹנִי אַבְרָהָם הַקְרֵה-נָא לְפָנַי הַיּוֹם וַעֲשֵׂה-חֶסֶד עִם אֲדֹנִי אַבְרָהָם. יג הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי נִצָּב עַל-עֵין הַמָּיִם וּבְנוֹת אַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר יֹצְאֹת לִשְׁאֹב מָיִם. יד וְהָיָה הַנַּעֲרָ אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיהָ הַטִּי-נָא כַדֵּךְ וְאֶשְׁתֶּה וְאָמְרָה שְׁתֵה וְגַם-גְּמַלֶּיךָ אַשְׁקֶה אֹתָהּ הֹכַחְתָּ לְעַבְדְּךָ לְיִצְחָק וּבָהּ אֵדַע כִּי-עָשִׂיתָ חֶסֶד עִם-אֲדֹנִי.
And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, grant me good fortune this day and deal graciously with my master Abraham. Here I stand by the spring as the daughters of the townsmen come out to draw water; let the maiden to whom I say, ‘please, lower your jar that I may drink.’ and who replies, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels’ let her be the one whom You have decreed for your servant Isaac. Thereby shall I know that you have dealt graciously with my master.”
A. Then Yonatan said, “behold we will pass over to these men, and we will reveal ourselves to them. If they say to us; ‘tarry until we come to you’ then we will stand still in this place and not go up to them. But if they say ‘Come up to us’ then we will go up for the Lord has delivered them into our hand. And this will be a sign for us. [I Samuel 14:8-10]
B. The plea of Eliezer, Abraham’s servant poses a problem. There is surely a self-contradiction in him praying to God to engineer a coincidence. This is the literal rendering of his plea which may be translated as “cause to chance before me today.” [N. Leibowitz, Studies in Bereshit/Genesis p.239]
C. He did not make this a sign whereby he might recognize Isaac’s destined wife, because that would be divination, rather he prayed that it might fall out so; and so it was with Jonathan the son of Saul …If the individual says it not as a prayer, but as divination, i.e. “If thus and thus happens then I shall do this” then he is guilty of divination. [Sforno on Gen. 24:14]
D. The Servant prays for success in his mission, thanks God when success seems imminent, but the motif-word that recurs rather strangely in his prayers is the word “hesed” (love). … The importance of what Rebecca will mean to the family is intimated here. For there is, after all, a tragic residue of the Akedah in Abraham’s family. The darkening of Sarah’s light is one manifestation. But even in Abraham’s case – what can it have meant to him to undergo the test, and then, simply, silently, have Isaac restored to him? … God says not a word to Abraham after the command to sacrifice his son. He restores his son but Abraham never knows the reason for his experience. … Implicit in the servant’s prayers is the need to see a manifest indication of God’s hesed to Abraham. His main criterion for the rightness of Rebecca’s election is that he will sense in her the hesed that, since the Akedah, has been lacking from his master’s experience. [A Zornberg, Genesis, The Beginning of Desire, p.140]
E. The test to determine what girl is the right one for Isaac was recognized by the rabbis long ago as being ghastly inappropriate. “What if the woman who watered the servant’s camels had been a slave or a prostitute?” they ask in horror. Yet the foolish servant blithely goes his merry way and is guarded by God against error. Further, the servant dangles images of riches before the eyes of the girl’s family, rather than the sterling qualities of character one might have hoped for. It makes me wonder about Isaac. [B. Visotzky, The Genesis of Ethics p.126]
1. This is one of the longest narratives of the Torah. What are we being taught to do when faced with an important decision?
2. Is Rebecca chosen by character, fate, luck or divine will?
3. Is this story high drama or comedy? Why?