Chayei Sarah – A Leap of Faith

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In this week’s Torah portion of Chayei Sarah, Avraham sends his trusted servant Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak. He finds Rivka at the well and asks her for a drink of water, and she proceeds to give his animals a drink as well. Eliezer then gave her gifts of betrothal before he even asks her who she was. “Now it came about, when the camels had finished drinking, [that] the man took a golden nose ring, weighing half [a shekel], and two bracelets for her hands, weighing ten gold [shekels]” (Breishis 24:22). Rashi explains that there was a symbolism behind each of the pieces of jewelry Eliezer gave Rivka. “Half [a shekel]: This alludes to the shekels of Israel, half a shekel per head. — [Targum Jonathan] and two bracelets: An allusion to the two Tablets paired together. — [Gen. Rabbah (60:6), Targum Jonathan], weighing ten gold [shekels]: An allusion to the Ten Commandments [inscribed] on them. — [Gen. Rabbah 60:6].”
The Levush Haorah, wondering why Rashi gives symbolism to each of these gifts, gives a very deep and profound insight into Eliezer’s intentions. He says, “It would seem to me that Rashi specifically pointed this out because the pasuk did not write, ‘The man took a golden nose ring and he put it on her nose, and two bracelets etc.’ Rather the pasuk was hinting with this that he was not concerned to give her a gift of greater value, rather he just wanted to hint with it certain concepts. And even though she definitely did not understand them and did not know what they were, nevertheless, it is possible to say that he did this in order to do an action that would strengthen the success of his journey. Meaning, that she will be the woman that Hashem will prove to be for Yitzchak. We find in many places of prophecy that the prophet will strengthen and fortify his prophecy with an action the prophet performs, for example, ‘And he said, “Open the window to the east,” and he opened it; and Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot. And he said, “[This is] an arrow of salvation from the Lord, and an arrow of victory over Aram, and you shall strike the Arameans in Aphek until they are completely annihilated”’ (Melachim Beis 13:17). There are many other examples like that one, check and you will find them. This is one of the secrets of prophecy to energize the Powers On High. So too he, [Eliezer], wanted to energize upon her Powers From On High so that she will merit and be ready for this holy match (made in Heaven). This will also answer the question everyone asks of why he first gave them to her and then asked her who she was, for even though he relied on the merit of Avraham, and trusted in him, as Rashi explained, nevertheless, what’s the big deal? Why take any chances? What would hurt if he would have asked her name first and afterwards give her the presents? It would have been better! But according to what I am saying, this isn’t a problem, because if he would have asked her beforehand and then given to her, then there would not have been any room for [spiritual] energy and inspiration, for he would have given it with the confidence of knowing who she was. He would have relied on that and not on the intent of arousing [spiritual] energy, but now that he first gave and did not originally ask, his thoughts and intents were more clinging On High with his inspirational energy in a fashion of prayer and beseeching and it more actively created a clinging to Hashem through his intent, thoughts and arousal of [spiritual] energy. If one truly thinks about this, he’ll understand.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
It sounds like from this Levush Haorah that Eliezer was giving some sort of spiritual, kabbalistic sign of success for finding what he thought would be the perfect match for Yitzchak. But wasn’t he taking a big risk? It sounds like the jewelry he gave her was not so expensive; what if she had been insulted and rejected the proposal? Why should he have risked putting in jeopardy such an important mission? He should have put in all his efforts to ensure success and make a good impression on her for Yitzchak! Furthermore, what if she was the wrong girl? Avraham asked him to find his family, so shouldn’t Eliezer have inquired first to be sure he did not mess up? What if he was wrong? You can’t put trust in Hashem on someone else’s expense, especially with so much at stake like a proper shidduch for Yitzchak!

However, if you think about this a bit, I believe there is an incredible insight into bitachon, trust in Hashem, that can be learned from the Levush Haorah’s understanding of Eliezer’s actions. It would seem that the proper effort, hishtadlus, for Eliezer was to have more bitachon, trust in Hashem, even blind faith of sorts which was a matter of taking risks.  But by taking the actions he took, and making the decisions that he made, it was in fact the proper efforts he was supposed to take, and if he had not, then it’s possible that the shidduch and marriage would not have been the same. This trust in Hashem is what transformed his efforts into calculated efforts and not just a blind leap of faith.

The way to understand this best is what the Chovos Halevavos says in the beginning of his introduction to the chapter on Bitachon, “The benefits in religious matters: Among them, peace of mind, and trusting in G-d as a servant must trust in his master. Because if one does not place his trust in G-d, he will place his trust in something else, and whoever trusts in something other than G-d, the Al-mighty will remove His providence from such a person and leave him in the hands of the one he trusted.” 

Eliezer’s actions though seemed odd, risky, and improper, but on the contrary ensured that he will be guided and protected in the “Hands” of Hashem which guaranteed and was in fact a sign of a successful mission.