Chayei Sarah: The Divine is in the Details




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    Chayei Sarah: The Divine is in the Details

    Most of this week’s reading is devoted, in great detail and with much repetition, to the story of how the Patriarch Avraham sent his servant Eliezer on a matchmaking mission and how he found Rivka. The Torah is usually very economical on words. Hundreds of laws are often learned from just a few words. Why does it go into such great length here with this marriage story? Read the full Dvar Torah by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton Full Article

    Parshat Chayei Sarah 

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    Most of this week’s reading is devoted, in great detail and with much repetition, to the story of how the Patriarch Avraham sent his servant Eliezer on a matchmaking mission and how he found Rivka.

    The Torah is usually very economical on words. Hundreds of laws are often learned from just a few words. Why does it go into such great length here with this marriage story?

    I would like to explain by telling another story.

    Over 150 years ago in Russia there lived a scholar called Rav Yosef. He was an exceptionally gifted man both in mind and in humility. Not only did he know all of the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi by heart but he was well versed in all the books of law and the mysteries of Kabala as well.

    Now this Rav Yosef was considering applying for the post of Rabbi in several large cities and, being a Chassid (follower) of the second Rebbe of Chabad Rebbe Dov Ber, he traveled to Lubavitch to ask for a blessing and advice which city to choose. But surprisingly, the Rebbe wasn’t pleased.

    He looked up from his desk and said solemnly, “Rav Yosef, if someone gives you the choice of being an important Rabbi, it’s better for you to be a carriage driver.” (Perhaps the least intellectually demanding of jobs.)

    Two days later, when he arrived home and told his wife what the Rebbe said, he himself still hadn’t absorbed it.

    “If so”, she said, “You must go down to the wagon drivers and ask their advice.”

    “Advice on what?” he asked.

    “Advice on what type of carriage to buy. How much it will cost. How long it will take to learn.” She answered.

    But Rav Yosef was still in ‘neutral’, he shook his head in agreement every time his wife mentioned it, but went back to learning Talmud or something else and let the time pass.

    Until, about a month later a group of smiling, distinguished Jews knocked at Rav Yosef’s door, entered, introduced themselves as the officials of Minsk, and officially offered him the prestigious job as the Rabbi of that city.

    He asked them for some time to think, they replied that they would return in a week, took turns shaking his hand and left.

    As soon as they closed the door behind them, his wife announced that now he had no choice other than to finally go talk to the wagon drivers.

    So, the next morning Rav Yosef made a visit to the stables. At first the drivers thought he was a customer. Then they though he was joking or crazy. But when they saw he was neither, one of the older drivers showed him around, carefully pointing out how each job was difficult, dirty, or dangerous and how much a carriage, horses and hiring a teacher would cost.

    After several hours he returned home with a full report to his wife and a conclusion; a carriage was too expensive; much more than they could afford, and that was the end of it.

    “Yosef!” said his wife emphatically, “are you a Chassid or not? The Rebbe wants you to be a driver. I‘ll sell all my jewelry and our silver Shabbos candle sticks, and that should cover it!”

    The next afternoon, money in hand, Rav Yosef bought a wagon and some horses, found a driver to teach him the ropes and two months later he was one of the carriage drivers.

    He accepted his new job with as much joy as he could muster up; he took good care of his horses and his carriage, and the other drivers always helped him and tried to give him the easiest trips.

    He also tried to keep himself as holy as possible. he never began working until he had devoted one hour to the Morning Prayer and while driving, he would recite the Talmud he knew by heart. But nevertheless his heart was broken inside of him. He was, after all, a genius and felt he could benefit both himself and the world more by being the Rabbi of a city than a driver of horses.

    One cold winter morning, as he was feeding his horses and getting the carriage ready for the day’s work, a rich, gentile businessman entered the stables, approached him and asked him if he was willing to take him to Petersburg.

    “That is a two-day journey”, answered Rav Yosef. “I’ll gladly take you, but I’m telling you now that I am a Jew that believes in G-d and every morning I must pray for one hour before we begin the journey. I never begin at the crack of dawn.”

    “Good, Good.” The businessman replied. “Maybe on the second day I’ll get another driver. The main thing is I must travel now. All my suitcases are here and I want to leave as soon as possible.”

    Rav Yosef wasted no time hitching up the horses and they were on their way.

    “Oy” thought Rav Yosef to himself for the hundredth time as he was driving some lonely road far from town, “What will become of me? All day I have to look at the backside of these horses. What will become of me?”

    That night they stopped at an inn (it was impossible to travel at night) and before they retired the businessman paid him for the day’s journey, saying that he would find another driver that would leave early. They shook hands and the innkeeper showed them to their rooms.

    Rav Yosef slept for a few hours, as was his custom, woke at midnight, washed his hands and began to say Tikkun Chatsos (midnight) prayer, (mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile).

    His heart was broken enough as it was, and when he began thinking of the terrible suffering of the Jews the pain was too much to bear, he poured out all of his emotion into the words of the prayers in weeping and heartfelt melodies.

    When he finished, he opened his Talmud and began learning until the dawn when he put on his Tefillin and prayed ‘Shachris’ (the morning prayer).

    He had just put his Tefillin back after praying, and was about to sit down and have something to eat when suddenly the door opened and there stood his gentile passenger from the day before.

    His clothes were disordered as though he hadn’t slept most of the night and it was clear that he had been crying.

    “I want to … put on …. your Tefillin,” he said as he burst into uncontrollable tears and fell to his knees. He doubled over like a rag doll on the floor with his face in his hands and his entire body shaking with heart-rending sobs. “Oh please forgive me!!” He wailed “My G-d, please forgive me!!” The astounded Rav Yosef watched with his mouth open in disbelief; he had never seen anything like this in his life!

    After a few minutes, when the man had calmed down, he washed his face, apologized for the outburst and explained.

    A few hours earlier, he had been asleep when he was awakened by the midnight prayers of Rav Yosef in the room next to his. At first, he tried to ignore the noise, then he got mad because it was disturbing him, but then, slowly it woke up something inside of his soul. He was a Jew.

    He remembered that when he was a boy his father used to pray like that. He had left Judaism, now was a wealthy man and had long forgotten his youth and his past but hearing Rav Yoseph’s prayers changed all that.

    Now he decided firmly to become his real self…he wanted to be a Jew again. He cancelled his business trip and two days later they were standing before the Rebbe who informed Rav Yosef that he could sell his wagon and become a Rabbi, he had fulfilled the purpose of his strange career. And as for the ‘passenger’; the Rebbe wrote a treatise called ‘Pokeach Ivrim’ to guide him on his journey back to Judaism. (This booklet is available today and this story is told in the introduction)

    This, then, is the importance of the story of Eliezer the servant and emissary of Avraham because in a sense we are all servants and emissaries.

    Each Jew, indeed, each human is responsible to and is an emissary of the Creator to improve the creation. And every detail of our mission is important. Even the smallest improvement can have monumental repercussions. As we saw in our story.

    But like Rav Yosef, our life’s task is often difficult and seemingly the opposite of what we want and understand. But the goal is so infinitely good that it certainly is worth the struggle: to bring Moshiach who will bring the entire world to the awareness that G-d is the creator and King of all creation.

    As we say in the ‘Alenu’ prayer thrice daily.

    And not much is lacking to make it happen! After thousands of years of self-sacrifice it could be that just one more good deed, word or even thought is all that is missing.

    This weekend in Crown Heights New York, the Headquarters of the Lubavitch Rebbe will be the annual convention of Chabad ‘Shluchim’; thousands of emissaries and servants of the Lubavitcher Rebbe; the Avraham Avinu of our generation, will try to do everything possible to bring…

    Moshiach NOW!!

    Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
    Yeshiva Ohr Tmimm
    Kfar Chabad, Israel


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    1. Anonymous

      Rivka and Yitzchak are parents of Yakov and Eisav, is that correct?

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    Chayei Sarah: The Divine is in the Details