Why Does G-d Answer THIS Prayer?
Isn’t it interesting that Avraham’s servant makes a very specific prayer:
Oh YKVK, God of my lord Avraham, pray let it happen today for me, and deal in loyalty with my lord Avraham! Here, I have stationed myself by the water spring as the women of the town go out to draw water. May it be that the maiden to whom I say: Pray lower your pitcher that I may drink, and she says: Drink, and I will also give your camels to drink— let her be the one whom you have decided on for your servant, for Yitzhak, by means of her may I know that you have dealt in loyalty with my lord.
And the events unfold exactly as he prayed?! Isn’t that incredible? Does any other person in the entire Torah make such a specific prayer and have it answered in every specificity even before he could finish saying it?!
Why? Why is this unnamed servant more favored by G-d than any of the patriarchs or even Moses?!
Could the answer be found in the text, when the servant tells the story to Lavan?
I, even before I had finished speaking to my heart, here, Rivka came out…
Is this the answer? The servant was
לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־לִבִּ֗י, “speaking to my heart!” What does that entail? Might it be taking the spiritual energy contained in words, and applying it to his physical self, his heart? In other words, does the prayer of the servant encapsulate the core idea of being a Jew: use our spiritual powers (including the power of words to create and shape the world) to constrain and elevate the physical world, starting with our own bodies?
Is this the secret of prayer, the key to divine favor when we pray? G-d rewards us when we are apply our spiritual energies toward elevating the physical world?
Is there a better explanation?
Abusing a Stranger
Avraham calls himself a ger toshav, a “resident alien” when he starts to negotiate to purchase Machpelah.
This phrase is not common in the Torah. It is only found in this pasuk, and in Lev. 25:35 and 47.
Now when your brother sinks down [in poverty] and his hand falters beside you,
then shall you hold him as a sojourner and resident-settler (ger toshav), and he is to live beside you.
Is it possible that the commandment to be kind to the ger toshav is specifically because the sons of Het took advantage of Avraham in his hour of need, and grossly overcharged him for the field and cave? Does the mitzvah found later in the Torah have its genesis in Genesis?
The servant put his hand under the thigh of Avraham his lord, and swore to him about this matter.
Consider that an oath on the loins is only found in two places in the Torah:
Yisrael’s days drew near to death, so he called his son Yosef and said to him: Pray, if I have found favor in your eyes, pray put your hand under my thigh— deal with me in loyalty and faithfulness: pray do not bury me in Egypt!
Could it be that since the loins are the only physical sign of being a Jew, and also the link to the next generation, that an oath sworn in this way was inherently about the timeless preservation of the people? Isaac had to marry in the family to save the future of the world, just as Jacob had to be buried in Machpelah for the same reason?
Why Was Sarah in Hebron?
We know that after the Akeidah, which happened a three days’ journey from Be’er-sheva, Avraham returned to Be’ersheva.
So Avraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Be᾽er-sheva; and Avraham dwelt at Be᾽er-sheva.
So how did Sarah die in Hebron – alone?
And Sara died in Qiryat-arba; that is Ḥevron, in the land of Kena῾an: and Avraham came to mourn for Sara, and to weep for her.
At some point, Avraham and Sarah were separated. The text does not tell us when, or why or how. Could the separation have happened before the Akeidah, or even years afterward?
Is it important that they were separated? What can we learn from it?
Why is Hebron Holy?
We think of the cave of Machpela as being a holy site. But what makes it holy? Was it inherently holy?
Could it be that Hebron becomes special because Sarah chose to live there? After all, didn’t Sarah essentially go wherever Avraham told her to go, and do whatever Avraham told her to do? That is – up until she ended up in Hebron, by herself…?
Or, perhaps Hebron is holy, because it is the place where Avraham chooses to honor his wife and her independent decisions? Isn’t this the first example in the Torah of a husband honoring his wife? Does the fact that he does so publicly, and extravagantly, in the eyes of the world set an example in perpetuity for all of the Jewish people?
Could Hebron be a special place because it marks the spot of Sarah’s independence, and Avraham’s public honoring of her and her choices?
Why is Isaac in Be’er Leharoi?
We know that Avraham and Isaac separate after the Akeidah. Avraham goes to Be’er Sheva. And Isaac goes to Be’er Leharoi.
Why does Isaac leave his father? Could it be that the events of the Akeidah were traumatic?
If so, why go to Be’er Leharoi? Could it be because that is the place Hagar went – and where she found divine connection and mercy?
Could Isaac have chosen to go to the same place, in a desire to grow a connection with G-d after the Akeidah, a connection in his own right? Wouldn’t that be consistent with praying in the field?
How does Isaac have Sarah’s Tent?
If Avraham and Isaac separate after the Akeidah, then how does Isaac have his mother’s tent? Surely the tent belonged to Avraham, right?
Is it possible that when Avraham got remarried, the new wife chose to discard Sarah’s tent? And that Avraham would have sent Sarah’s possessions to their son?
This parsha question sheet takes the approach of reading the Chumash very closely. It is assumed that every letter and word has meaning, and all questions can be answered (at least every one we have come up so far!) So you’ll find the questions offered every week are deeply textual, seeking relevance to our lives today from the foundational document for Judaism and indeed all of Western Civilization.
This sheet is distributed with the general approval of Rabbi Rose.
- A BJSZ member