Dvar Torah - Chayei Sarah
Updated: Mar 14, 2022
Do not test Hashem, your G-d, as you tested him in Masa." -- Devarim 6, 16
In life, we like to have maximum certainty. We always want to know if we have got something right, if something will work. Often getting from 60% or 70% knowledge of what will occur to 95% doesn't really change our decisions or our actions, but it makes us feel better.
So, this week we see the main protagonist of the Parsha do something which seems perfectly normal. Avraham's servant, upon reaching Charan, speaks to Hashem and says: ‘I will ask the women leaving the city for water. If one says that she will give me water to drink and also give water to my camels, I will know that she is the right wife for my master, Yitzchak’. It makes sense. The servant has been assured that if he happens to find a woman descended from Avraham's brother, YItzchak's uncle, that woman would be the right one for Yitzchak to marry. However, he wants more certainty. He wants to know that not only does she have the right lineage, he wants to see for himself that she is a fitting successor to those monuments to loving-kindness, Avraham and Sarah. He knows that the woman he chooses will be the one to carry the torch of ethical monotheism forward. He wants to be certain that she is up to the task.
The problem with this conduct, one which is pointed out by many of our classical commentaries, is that he seems to be testing G-d. They ask, shouldn't the servant have maintained faith and accepted his mission, knowing that the woman that he would find would be the right one, even without external signs? Why does he need the extra guarantee that he is on the right track?
The simplest answer for why his conduct was not forbidden is that while the servant made this condition as part of a prayer, he wasn't asking G-d to make the woman give him and his camels water. The woman had free will. She would do it on her own without divine intervention. He was just articulating a plan to find the right person.
However, at a deeper level, we all see ourselves in the servant. Sometimes we are told to look for something, but we don't understand why it's important. The servant couldn't understand why merely being of the same family as Avraham would be so significant. So he added an extra test, just in case. That's ok. It's normal to want to be extra sure, especially in cases where we are making decisions that are absolutely crucial, like picking the progenitor of the entire Jewish people. However, it is also important to know how to act decisively once that assurance comes, to know how to trust in ourselves and in G-d that the outcome will be ok and that we have done our best.
Avraham's servant's behaviour is a model for us because he knew when to try to be extra certain, and he knew when to act decisively, to ask that Rivkah would come with him immediately and to brook no delay. Hopefully, in our current rapidly changing environment, we too will know how to navigate between these two poles.