Chaye Sarah: The Significance of the Discussions of our Forefathers' Servants


[Tal Chermon]

This Torah portion discusses Eliezer's mission to find a suitable wife for Yitzchak.  The Torah relates the event at great length, devoting about seventy verses to it.  It is in fact repeated twice – once when the events actually happen and once when Eliezer recounts the story to Rivkah's family.  Eliezer was in fact adamant that he tell the whole tale, as he said: "I will not eat until I speak my piece" (Bereshit 24:33).  Interestingly enough, there is an inordinate amount of "speaking" going on here about a subject that does not seem to be of such great importance! Surely there are far more important topics, such as the laws of Shabbat, which fill entire volumes of Halachah books and yet only warrant a few verses in the Torah itself.  We must conclude therefore that Eliezer's discussion is a very important matter, as our Rabbi tells us: "The discussions of our forefather's servants are more pleasing to G-d than even the Torah study of the sons."  The mere fact that Eliezer's narrative is repeated twice, while many important halachic principles were given only by remote indications in the Torah, proves this point (Rashi on Bereshit 24:42 quoting Bereshit Rabbah 60:8).

Spiritual elevation can be achieved in one of two ways – by the study of spiritual ideas or by spiritual experience itself.  The first path is a process of intellect and analysis while the second is a form of spiritual influence emanating from an inner vision and experience.  Our prophets of old did not attempt to explain or convince people by logical proofs, but rather expressed these inner truths through themselves. People who met them were then influenced and inspired by the very spiritual experience of coming into contact with the personality of the prophet (The period of the prophets coincided with the period that philosophers flourished in Greece.  For example, Yirmiyahu lived at the time of Pythagoras.  The Greek philosophers employed rational explanation while the prophets used the alternative method of spiritual influence).

The prophets did not stress the importance of Torah study.  Naturally, they themselves were outstanding Torah scholars, but this is not mentioned in the Tanach because life and study were not separate disciplines for the prophets.  Our prophets were not like us.  Today we live in a dichotomous state in which we devote part of our time to Torah study and spend the rest of our time "living our lives."  For them, their entire lives were Torah.  Even when they were involved in mundane matters, their whole approach emanated from the depth of their personality which was entirely Torah.  The experience of an encounter with such a "personality of Torah," even when it involved only secular matters, made for more of an impact than an analytical study of a thousand books. 

The ideal of Torah study is not stressed in the Tanach, but this is not because it is unimportant.  The leading Torah personalities obviously learned day and night but their studies were not an isolated aspect of their lives – rather they were a most natural part their existence – life itself.  Their deep-rooted connection to the Torah, which is manifested today by its study, was revealed in every action and word spoken in those times.

Yehoshua had to be specially charged to "meditate on it [the Torah] day and night" (Yehoshua 1:8), since he was on the verge of the conquest of Israel during which he would be fully occupied in his task as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, planning and executing military operations.  Under the circumstance, there was a need to emphasize the obligation of Torah study despite his heavy national burden.  In ordinary times, however, it is taken for granted that one must always to be attached to the Torah.

Every Jew must therefore aspire to achieve the level of the "servants of our forefathers" who manifested the Torah not only in their studies, but, like Eliezer, servant of Avraham, even in their most mundane conversations.