A Wife That Doesn’t Say Much

Parshas Chayei Sarah

When Eliezer was searching for a wife for Yitzchok, Eliezer prepared a test which he employed to find a suitable companion. The Torah tells us that he decided to ask for a drink, and judge the potential of the young lady by her response. That girl, who offers to give water not only to Eliezer but also to his camels will have proven herself to be a worthy soul-mate for Yitzchok Avinu. The commentators point out, that her proposal to serve is an indication of the trait of Chesed – Kindliness. It shows caring beyond simply giving Eliezer a drink.

Question

The defining characteristic of Avrohom Avinu was kindness, but the trait of his son Yitzchok was judgement, precision and exactitude. Why didn’t Eliezer look for somebody who could complement Yitzchok with a measure of Din, just as Sarah supported Avrohom’s goals and outlook? 

Answer

Eliezer was not looking merely for kindness, but for an exhibition of a different characteristic.  The quality of “saying little yet doing much”. This virtue is beneficial to various attributes. It is a Midda that we see earlier in contrast between Avrohom and Ephron. Avrohom invited in his guests promising them bread and water. What he served was a delectable full spread including tongue of beef, milk, butter and mustard. Conversely, Ephron assured Avrohom that the latter could take ownership of the Cave of Machpelah free. Soon Ephron hinted he would be happy to receive 400 silver coins, a price beyond the market value of the plot. We now understand Eliezer’s strategy of a finding a girl who give both him and his camels to drink. He was trying to find a wife for Yitzchok who’s actions exceeded her speech. 

Lesson

Do not commit to more than you will perform, act above what you say. 

Story

There was once a chossid from Lodz waiting to speak with the Gerrer Rebbe, the Sfas Emes (1847-1905). He noticed that Rabbi Elya Chaim Meisels (1821-1912), the Chief Rabbi of Lodz, was also sitting in the waiting room. Rabbi Elya Chaim was ushered into the Gerrer Rebbe’s chambers and remained there for some time. He emerged with a downcast demeanor and troubled countenance. The chossid was wondering what business the Chief Rabbi had with the Rebbe and further what had transpired to make him look so woebegone. Out of respect for Rabbi Elya Chaim’s position he did not inquire into these things. The chossid from Lodz was soon called in to speak with the Sfas Emes. On conclusion of his affair, the Rebbe said to the chossid “If you are going straight home, please offer to accompany the Chief Rabbi home.” The chossid did as the Sfas Emes requested.

On the way home he could no longer contain his curiosity and asked the Rabbi what had happened.  Rabbi Elya Chaim explained: “A man came to me asking for money to free a captive. I did not have the wherewithal to help him, but could not bear to send him away empty handed. So I turned over my house, and found a sum of money  which I had borrowed for another purpose. I gave him this money. I came to see the Sfas Emes, hoping he could help me raise the necessary funds to pay back my loan. He chastised me that I should not have used that borrowed money, which was set aside aside for something else. Rather, I should have relied on Hashem, who has many messengers, to care for the captives.”

When the chossid heard this story, he was silent. He knew that the Sfas Emes would not allow Rabbi Elya Chaim to worry for long. When they arrived in Lodz, as they alighted from the train, they were greeted by a group of rich merchants. Each of these merchants had been instructed, via emergency telegram from the Gerrer Rebbe, to meet the Chief Rabbi’s train. Each one had brought money towards paying of the loan. The Sfas Emes certainly did more than he said he would.

Weekly Halacha

One may wear a hooded sweater or coat in the street on Shabbos even while not wearing the hood.

2 Comments

  1. I also enjoyed it. Besides the אמור מעט ועשה הרבה aspect, there was a second message which is why the Rebbe was non committal in the first place. While wanting to help him the Rebbe didn’t want his assistance to detract from telling Reb Elya Chaim that it wasn’t proper for him to borrow to redeem captives.

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