Finding a Wife, and G-d, at the Well - חיי שרה

Friday, 10 November, 2023 - 2:06 pm

Finding a Wife, and G-d, at the Well

Abraham dispatched his servant Eliezer to the distant land of Charan to find a bride for his son Isaac. Eliezer arrived at the well in the center of town, and prayed to G-d for success. He requested that G-d give him a sign that the girl was the right one for Isaac. If, when he would ask a girl for water to drink, she would also  offer to provide water for his camels, it would be clear that she was the one destined for Isaac. 

When the events played out exactly as Eliezer had hoped, his response was surprising. Eleiezer was not happy, elated, or grateful. Eliezer was astonished! The Torah tells us: 

And the man was astonished at her, standing silent, [waiting] to know whether the Lord had caused his way to prosper or not. (Genesis 24:21)

Why was Eliezer so surprised when his prayer was accepted and his plan was successful? 

Eliezer believed in G-d. He understood that one can have a deep relationship with G-d through meditation and prayer. Yet, what was astonishing to him was seeing G-d’s hand play out not in the house of worship but in the daily affairs in the market place or at the well. Eliezer believed in an exalted,  transcendent G-d, and was astonished to experience the infinite G-d helping him through what seemed to be a chance occurrence. 

Perhaps this is one of the messages of the story, and why the Torah repeats the episode with Eliezer multiple times. As Rashi quotes the Midrash: 

Rabbi Acha said: The ordinary conversation of the servants of the Patriarchs is more beloved before G-d than the Torah of their sons, for the section dealing with Eliezer is repeated in the Torah, whereas many fundamentals of the Torah were given only through allusions. (24:42)

“The Torah of the sons” is how we connect to G-d by internalizing His wisdom. Yet the “conversations of servants of the Patriarchs” are more beautiful, because they teach us  that the infinite G-d is present not only in meditation but also when one is looking for a soul mate; not only in the halls of study but also in the everyday interactions of man. 


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