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P A R A S H A - P A G E
by Mordecai Kornfeld
of Har Nof, Jerusalem
Founder of the Dafyomi Advancement Forum

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Parashat Chayei Sarah 5757


[Eliezer the servant of Avraham] then said, "Hashem, please bring it about today; do this kindness for my master Avraham: Behold, I am standing by a well... may it be that the girl of which I ask to give me a drink, and she answers, "Drink, and I will give your camels to drink as well" -- she will be the one that you have chosen for your servant Yitzchak [my master's son] as a wife.

Before he even finished speaking, Rivka came by.... The servant *ran* up to her, and said, "Please give me some water!" She *hastily* took her pitcher down from her shoulder and gave him.... Then she *hastily* poured the remaining water in the pitcher into the camels' trough and *ran* back to the well to draw more water. She then continued to draw enough water for all of his camels. (Bereishit 24:12-20)

Why, asks the Brisker Rav, did the transaction between Eliezer and Rivka take place at such an accelerated pace? Everyone seems to be rushing about -- "He *ran* to her... and she *hastily*... and *ran*...." Also, why did the Torah find it necessary to accent this hurry twice: as it transpired, and again when Eliezer describes his experiences to Rivka's family (24:46).

The speed, answers the Brisker Rav, was not merely a peripheral detail of the meeting between Eliezer and Rivka. It was integral to the successful fulfillment of Eliezer's prayer. Eliezer arrived in Aram Naharaim "towards the evening" (24:11). At that point, he prayed to Hashem that He should "bring about *today*" the completion of his mission (24:12). The Jewish day starts and ends at sunset, not at sunrise (Gemara B'rachot 2a). Eliezer was asking that Hashem send him the right match during the short span of time between the late evening and sunset! If a girl would have fed him and his camel after sunset, it would not have conformed to the "test" he had designed in his prayer. This meant that everything had to transpire at breakneck speed. The servant *ran* to Rivka when she arrived, so as to allow the Divine omen to run its course. Hashem caused Rivka to *run* to the well and to *hastily* bring water for Eliezer and his camels in order to fulfill the condition of "let it be today!"

It is for this reason, continues the Brisker Rav, that the Torah stresses the fact that "before Eliezer finished speaking, Rivka was already coming..." (24:15,45). The action had to start immediately if Eliezer's prayer was to be answered! (Chiddushei ha'Griz, Bereishit 24:17)


We can explain a number of other related events from the story of Eliezer with the Brisker Rav's novel approach. Rashi (24:17) tells us that before Rivka lowered her pail into the well, the well-water *rose* to greet her and she filled her pail effortlessly. Perhaps this did not happen every time Rivka approached the well but only that night, in order to hasten the evening's events. If Rivka would have had to lower and raise her pail for Eliezer and all of his camels, it would have kept her busy until long after sunset. When Eliezer saw how speedily her pail filled, he immediately suspected that she was the Divine choice and *ran* to greet her.

Even Eliezer was taken aback by the speed of the occurrences. He could only "stand back in inner turmoil" and watch what was happening (Rashi 24:21).

It seems that the pace did not let up even after Rivka introduced herself as Avraham's cousin. The Torah describes how Rivka *ran* home to get permission to invite Eliezer into the house, and her brother Lavan *ran* back out to the well to relay the invitation. As soon as Eliezer enters Rivka's house a fine meal is placed before him, but her refuses to eat, insisting, "I cannot eat until I have had my say!." Only after Rivka's family announces, "Here is Rivka, take her and go!," did Eliezer prostrate himself in thanks to Hashem and eat his meal.

It would seem natural to deduce that Eliezer intended in his prayer not only to be *shown* the chosen bride on that very day, but also to successfully secure her *engagement*. That was what he meant by asking Hashem to "make it happen today." Only after the engagement did he feel he could slow down and eat.


Of course, that just passes the buck. Why did Hashem want Eliezer to secure Rivka's engagement on that very day? What made the matter so pressing? Perhaps we can resolve this riddle based on what Rashi teaches us elsewhere.

Rashi tells us at the end of Parashat Vayera (22:20) that Avraham was prepared to find a bride for Yitzchak immediately after the Akeidah. Hashem, told him, however, that he had no need to do so, as Rivka was Yitzchak's proper match and she was just born at the time of the Akeidah.

In the beginning of Parshat Toldot, Rashi tells us that Yitzchak married Rivka when she was but three years old. At the age of three a girl is fit to be married, so Yitzchak took her. Sifsei Chachamim points out, however, that it would seem more logical for Yitzchak to wait until Rivka physically matured, at about the age of 12. Before that age, after all, she couldn't reproduce. (Gemara Yevamot 12b. Although it is known that earlier generations reproduced at younger ages -- see Sanhedrin 69b -- it obviously was very uncommon, as is evidenced by the continuation of this very gloss Rashi. Although he married her when she was 3, Yitzchak did not worry about Rivka's infertility until ten years after their marriage. See also Tosefot Yevamot 61b, who cites another Midrashic opinion that maintains Rivka married Yitzchak when she was 14 years old.)

Perhaps it was *necessary* for Yitzchak to marry Rivka at the age of three. Rashi (26:12) tells us that Yitzchak, having been sanctified as a sacrifice, remained more "holy" to Hashem than the other Avot, Avraham and Yakov. Perhaps his part in the Akeidah granted him the status of a priestly Kohen (or even a Kohen Gadol).

A Kohen is prohibited from marrying a proselyte (Giyoret). If, however, the proselyte converts before the age of three, she is permitted to marry a Kohen (see Yevamot 60b -- similarly, a woman that had incestuous relationships may not marry a Kohen, but if she did so before the age of three she is permitted to a Kohen). Even in Avraham's days, those who chose to join Avraham Avinu's camp and leave behind their idolatrous families were considered proselytes (Rashi 12:5, see also Ra'avad to Gemara Avodah Zarah 36b). In order for Rivka to be permitted to Yitzchak, she would have to accept the engagement, and associate herself with the laws and lifestyles of Avraham's family, before she was three years old. Since Rivka had to be *at least* three when she married Yitzchak yet *no more* than three when Eliezer consummated the engagement, we may assume that Rivka was almost exactly three years old when Eliezer went to find her. Perhaps her birthday was that very night!

We can now see the urgency of Eliezer's mission. It was necessary for Rivka to agree to come along with Eliezer and marry Yitzchak before nightfall in order that she be considered a proselyte of less than three years of age, and therefore permitted to Yitzchak!



An obvious question nags us. Why should Eliezer stipulate such a ridiculous condition, forcing the hand of Hashem to bring everything about in such a supernatural manner? Why did he insist that his mission *must* be completed before nightfall? (The Brisker Rav addresses this question but briefly, leaving room for further explanation.)

Perhaps Eliezer deduced the urgency of the situation from an event that occurred on his way to Rivka's house. Rashi tells us (24:42) that Hashem miraculously hastened Eliezer's route. A journey that ought to have taken him many days took him less than one day! Eliezer may have inferred from this that Hashem wanted the "Shidduch" to be completed that very day. He therefore incorporated that condition into his prayer.

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