Friday, October 29, 2010

Chayei Sarah 5631 Fifth Ma'amar

Avraham Avinu dispatches his servant Eliezer to Charan to find a match for his son Yitzchak.  Upon his arrival, Eliezer begins his speech to Besu'el and Lavan with the statement, "... עֶבֶד אַבְרָהָם אָנֹכִי/… I am Avraham's servant." (Breishis 24:34)  The Zohar[1] says that this is the classic fulfillment of the pasuk, "בֵּן יְכַבֵּד אָב וְעֶבֶד אֲדֹנָיו .../A son will honor his father and a servant his master ..." (Mal'achi 1:4)  Why does the Zohar consider Eliezer's statement a display of honor towards Avraham?  After all, Eliezer simply put his remarks in context by prefacing them with a statement of who he was. 
The Zohar tells us that Eliezer was good looking.  He certainly did not look like a slave. Chazal teach us that he came from royalty[2]  The Chiddushei HaRim explains that Eliezer's statement showed Besu'el and Lavan that he considered it an honor to be Avraham Avinu's servant.  This was certainly a great display of honor towards Avraham.
The Sfas Emes gives another explanation as to why Eliezer's statement was a way of honoring Avraham.  Lavan knew that Eliezer was righteous.  He said to Eliezer, "... בּוֹא בְּרוּךְ ה' .../… Come, blessed one of God …" (Breishis 24:31)  But how could he be blessed?  Servitude is a curse and he was a servant.  Not only was he a servant, he came from the cursed family of Canaan.  The answer, Chazal[3] explain, is that Eliezer merited becoming blessed because he served Avraham Avinu faithfully.  Eliezer honored Avraham by attributing his blessed status to him.
This idea can help us understand a Midrash[4] on this pasuk.  The Midrash learns from Eliezer's first statement that a person should begin a speech with a self-deprecating statement.  But why was this statement self-deprecating?  As we noted earlier, Eliezer was simply putting his remarks in context.  According to the Sfas Emes's idea, though, it was self-deprecating because through this statement Eliezer was attributing his blessed state to Avraham instead of taking credit for it himself.

[1] Zohar 1:103a
[2] In fact Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni 24:109) teach us that Eliezer was the son of Nimrod.  He came from royalty and he looked it. 
[3] Breishis R. 60:7
[4] Breishis R. 60:9

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