Of Avroham, Eliezer & Shidduchim


What are we supposed to learn from the way Eliezer suggested the shidduch to Lovon? I have been wondering why he put the emphasis on the money and property Avrohom Avinu had promised his son. If we had had to guess what Eliezer said we might have imagined he would have emphasized Yitzchok's good middos and success in learning.

Also, the way Rashi describes Avrohom Avinu speaking to Eliezer is hard to understand. When Eliezer thinks he could make a shidduch with his daughter, Avrohom says to him, "Nothing doing! You are from a cursed family." This seems to go against Avrohom's middoh of chessed. Couldn't he have said something like "I don't think it is a suitable shidduch"? This would have made it clear to Eliezer that his idea was not acceptable without offending him. Also, don't we say we shouldn't remind a convert of where he came from and speak badly about his former people?


Part 1. When trying to close a deal it is wisest to emphasize what the other party wants – not why this deal is really good for that other party. Lovon and company couldn't care less about middos and learning.

We learn from this that when a person is pursuing a noble cause and has to deal with people and get their permission for something, it is not the time to start teaching proper values. Consider what is important to them from their perspective, however askew it may be, and proceed from there. If they don't value middos, don't bother starting to teach them about how middos will make their grandchildren and relatives better people. If money is what they value and you can offer that, be practical and develop that angle. In the end, they will benefit anyway and there is no deception.

Part 2. Perhaps this is the least offensive response. What was Eliezer thinking when he suggested his daughter? Maybe he thought Avrohom was looking for the best shidduch for his son and was willing to send him out of the country to a place where better people could be found. Eliezer thought, "My daughter was trained in your household and is a wonderful person. Do you think you are going to find a better match than this?" Avrohom replies, "It is not just a good individual I am seeking; of all the thousands of women in Canaan there surely are some special people and your daughter may be the best of them. The importance of sending you abroad is that all the people in Canaan are Cana'anim, who are arurim, as mentioned in Parshas Noach. You, Eliezer, are also a Cana'ani and an arur, and that is why I can't consider your daughter."[1] Telling Eliezer that it is not a suitable shidduch would imply she has some fault of her own. That would be worse.

Furthermore, Avrohom's response leaves no room for appeal. It doesn't leave Eliezer with the option of challenging the assertion that the shidduch is no good and trying to convince Avrohom that she really is better than he thinks. The case is closed. This way Eliezer can go about the job of searching for a shidduch professionally and diligently.

Another approach may be that such an offensive outburst is warranted in order to teach Eliezer proper behavior. It seems from the source material on this story that Eliezer has stepped out of line. See Midrash Rabbo (59:9), which is the source of this behind-the-scenes-anecdote. The midrash prefaces the story with a pasuk from Hoshea (12:8), which, loosely translated, says that Canaan uses deceptive tools and loves to trick people with them.[2] The Midrash reads the pasuk as follows: Eliezer (a descendant of Canaan) makes false calculations in order to deceitfully catch Yitzchok (the beloved of the world).

Perhaps, after having lived in Avrohom's house and been his student, he should have recognized his place. It should have been inconceivable for him to consider his daughter the first choice for Yitzchok. To hint at or suggest such a notion is not being intellectually honest as to what is best for Yitzchok. He let his personal ambitions drive him. This is the direct result of being from a cursed people. The Maskil LeDovid writes that because of this inappropriate request Avrohom may have decided that Eliezer's daughter isn't even worthy of being a second runner-up.[3] If Eliezer cannot find a shidduch in Avrohom's birthplace and is forced to choose a Canaanite woman, he must go to his friends Onner, Eshkol and Mamre and cannot choose his own daughter. This is because the curse on Canaan is more pronounced in Eliezer, as seen from his behavior in this very incident.[4]

The Maskil LeDovid finds a source for this intended rebuke in the wording of the midrash and Rashi: "An arur cannot connect with a baruch." Shouldn't it read, "A baruch cannot connect with an arur"? The subject is really whom Yitzchok (the baruch) can marry! But since Avrohom is trying to teach Eliezer what he did wrong, he says: "You are acting as an arur by not recognizing your position. Therefore your daughter is unfit for my family." Avrohom was the teacher of the world and was always trying to help others become better people. Eliezer was surely aware of that and most likely took Avrohom's constructive criticism in the way it was meant. Avrohom was not being nasty; he was educating.

A good teacher or parent must take advantage of a learning situation and point out the weaknesses of his students or children. If we are too soft when our children and students step out of line, we will be held accountable. This method, I believe, should be used when the educator is certain that the student will take the message in the right way and is strong enough to accept it. Otherwise, it may prove counterproductive.

BookID: 5 Chapter: 24

[1] One can be born an arur due to some wrong behavior by an ancestor. The stigma of being cursed remains through no fault of the offspring. A person can also be born "cursed" due to the divine plan for tikun olam. Hashem may decide that a certain neshama needs to be challenged with a certain difficult circumstance in order for the world to bring about the appropriate revelation of the essence of Hashem.

[2]כנען בידו מאזני מרמה לעשק אהב.

[3]ספר משכיל לדוד מר' דוד פארדו על פירש''י עה''ת (כד:לט) ד''ה אלי לא תלך האשה.

[4]אלא דק''ק ע''ז מרש''י בסוף וירא (כב:כ) ד''ה אחרי הדברים האלה וגו' שאברהם הרהר ואמר שאילו בני היה שחוט כבר היה הולך בלא בנים, היה לי להשיאו אשה מבנות ענר אשכול וממרא, בשרו הקב''ה שנולדה רבקה בת זוגו וכו' עכ''ל. הרי דאף לפני שאליעזר התנהג כך לא עלה על דעת אברהם להשיאו לבת אליעזר אילו היה לוקח מבנות כנען. ואפשר דנולדה בתו של אליעזר באותו פרק שנולדה רבקה.

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