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 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 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 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 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.