Thursday, November 8, 2012


INSIGHTS IN RASHI: CHAYEI SARAH – ELIEZER’S HIDDEN INTENT Yehonasan Gefen Bereishis, 24:39: “And I said to my master, ‘Perhaps ((אלי the woman will not follow me?” Rashi, Bereishis, 24:39, sv. Perhaps: אלי is written [without the ‘vav’]: Eliezer had a daughter and he was searching for a way in which Avraham would turn to him [so that Yitzchak] would marry his daughter. When Avraham instructed his faithful servant, Eliezer to search for a wife for Yitzchak, Eliezer asked what would happen if, perhaps, the woman would not want to come with him. In the initial account of his discussion with Avraham, the hebrew word for perhaps, אולי, is spelled in the normal way (with a vav). However, when he retold the story the Torah spells the wordאלי without the vav. This alludes to a different word meaning “to me” which alludes to us that Eliezer was hoping that he would not find a wife for Yitzchak on his travels and therefore Yitzchak should come “to him” to marry his daughter. The commentaries ask why the Torah only made this allusion the second time that Eliezer said these words; it would have seemed more logical to tell us on the first occasion? The Kotsker Rebbe zt”l explains that the first time Eliezer expressed his reservations he was not consciously aware of his underlying hope that Yitzchak would marry his daughter. Therefore there is no allusion to his selfish motives at that time. The reason for this was that he was unable to view the situation totally objectively and realize that he had ulterior motives. After he had found a wife for Yitzchak he could have a totally unbiased view of what had happened. He then recognized retroactively that the root cause of his objection to Avraham was the hidden hope that his own daughter would marry Yitzchak. The Kotzker Rebbe’s explanation demonstrates how easily one can get caught in the trap of selfish motives without even realizing. A person can only recognize these motives with the benefit of the objectivity that comes after the event, but by then it is often too late. How can a person avoid this problem at the time that it takes place? The Mishna in Avos helps answer this question: It instructs us: “...Acquire for yourself a friend. ” Rabbeinu Yonah writes that one of the benefits of having a friend is that he can help you in observing Mitzvos. “Even when a friend is no more righteous than him and sometimes he even acts improperly, nonetheless he does not want a friend to do the same [action], because he has no benefit from it. ” He then brings as a proof to this idea the principle that “a person does not sin on behalf of someone else.” This means that a generally observant person usually sins because he is blinded by some kind of desire for pleasure, however with regard to someone else we presume that he is not blinded in the same way and therefore we do not suspect him of sinning on behalf of others. This idea is applied in a number of places throughout the Gemara . Rabbeinu Yonah thus teaches us the importance of acquiring at least one friend who can act as an objective onlooker towards our own actions and warn us when ulterior motives are clouding our reasoning. This friend need not necessarily be on a higher level than ourselves – it is his objectivity that makes him more able to discern our true intentions. In this way we can hope to avoid the pitfalls of being clouded by the yester hara and can attain clarity in the underlying motives for our actions.

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