Parshat Chaye Sara: Genesis 23:1-25:18; I Kings 1:1-31.
This portion deals with the death and burial of Sarah and with the selection of a wife for her son, Isaac.
The connection is clear: A bereft Abraham understands the responsibility that lies before him to find a suitable mate for his heir to the covenant. For this task, he chooses his trusted servant, Eliezer.
Eliezer demonstrates understanding of what is required. He knows that the woman must be a member of the Abrahamic family (Rebekah is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor), and must not dwell among the evil Canaanites. He further understands that she must be willing to live with Isaac in Abraham’s domain rather than with her family. Most of all, he understands Isaac’s bride must have the character of Abrahamic hospitality, to the extent that she will not only draw water for him, the messenger, but will also draw water for his camels.
Eliezer arranges a match that will determine the destiny of God’s covenantal nation with wisdom, tact and sensitivity.
Rabbi Moshe Besdin saw Eliezer’s mission this way: All the bounty and goodness that had been expressed by Abraham was now placed in the hands of his most trusted servant because the future of Abraham was dependent upon Isaac, and the future of Isaac depended on his future wife.
Throughout this tale, Eliezer’s name is not mentioned. He is referred to as eved (the servant) 10 times and as ish (the personage) seven times, but never once by his name.
Wouldn’t such an important individual on such a significant mission deserve to have his name mentioned for everyone to remember? I believe that is the point of the biblical record. Eliezer is committed to performing an act that will determine the continuity of the Abrahamic vision; he is the consummate servant of Abraham, using all of his wisdom and ingenuity to carry out his master’s will.
Zev Wolfson immigrated to the United States as a refugee from a Siberian prison camp. He took responsibility for his mother and brother in America, and he was one of the most brilliant people I ever met. He mastered the stock market and real estate and navigated halls of influence and power.
All of these were channeled into creating learning institutions for Torah and strengthening Israel.
He was a crucial figure in Congress, reducing Israel’s loan obligations and sending Patriot missile batteries to Israel just before the Gulf War.
He was probably the greatest builder of Torah institutions in the history of the world.
Despite this, not one building, classroom or project bears his name. He was a servant of the Lord who lived selflessly and modestly for the sake of his mission.
He was truly Eliezer.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone and chief rabbi of Efrat, Israel.