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Psychologists - In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z'L)
Three years after the “Binding of Isaac” and Sarah’s death, Abraham ordered his faithful servant, Eliezer, to travel to Abraham’s brother’s city, Aram Naharaim, and find a wife for Isaac. Eliezer then asked Abraham, “Perhaps the woman would not want to travel and relocate to Cana’an. Shall I return Isaac to the land from which you left?” (Genesis 24:5)  To this, Abraham said, “Watch yourself, do not return my son there . . . and, if the woman does not return, you are relieved from the oath.” (Genesis 24: 6 & 8)

Upon meeting Rebecca and her family, Eliezer recounts the story. “I said to my master, “What if she does not desire to follow me?” (Genesis 24:39)

The Midrash Rabba (Compilation of Jewish Homiletic 400 -600; 59:9) teaches us that Eliezer had hoped Isaac would marry his daughter but Abraham refused. The Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, Prague; 1550 - 1619; Genesis 24:39) then explains that Abraham said to Eliezer, “Watch yourself” because he recognized that Eliezer still harbored a desire to see his daughter marry Isaac. Hence Eliezer’s question, “Perhaps the woman would not want to travel . . .”

Eliezer’s question was perfectly appropriate but Abraham recognized Eliezer may be tempted to not make every effort to bring back a wife and thereby create a situation where Abraham would have no choice but to marry his son to Eliezer’s daughter.

Abraham recognized the temptation even though Eliezer did not. What’s truly amazing is that Eliezer, despite not seeing the temptation within himself, took the “mussar” (criticism) to heart. When meeting Rebecca and her family, he recalled the exchange as a reminder for himself to resist the temptation of not doing his absolute utmost to bring Rebecca to Isaac. Eliezer carefully heeded Abraham’s word to “watch yourself”.

While it’s easy to play the psychologist and search for flaws in others, it’s far more difficult to actively search for flaws within ourselves. Even more difficult is to accept criticism for flaws, particularly those we do not (or refuse to) see. And even more difficult is acting upon to correct the flaws we never saw.

Even though Eliezer never saw the flaw within himself and never acted inappropriately, he took Abraham’s words to heart and acted upon them. The challenge is for us to do the same, to constantly strive to improve ourselves and be open to criticism from others, to remember Abraham’s “mussar” – “Watch yourself.”

Shabbat Shalom


 
   
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