This parashah is sometimes referred to as "the Shidduch parashah" and we will share just a few points on the ins and outs of finding a life partner.

Abraham asks his trusted servant Eliezer to swear that he would not take a wife for Isaac from among the Canaanites in whose midst he dwells, but would return to Abraham's birthplace and seek a wife for Isaac there.[1]

We wonder why Abraham is so adamant that Isaac not marry a Canaanite girl. It couldn't simply be because the Canaanites were idolaters, for the people of Charan (Abraham's birthplace) were also idol worshipers. In fact, at that time, the entire world was mired in paganism. Abraham's decision can be understood when we realize that idol worship is an intellectual error; it is a belief in a fallacious theology, and that can be overcome. However, the Canaanites were morally degenerate; they were innately dishonorable. While people can become enlightened and renounce their erroneous beliefs, corrupt character traits cannot easily be overcome. It was that which concerned our forefather Abraham. He knew that the future Matriarch of the nation destined to stand at Sinai could not be found in such a population.

The test of a truly good family is evidenced by the middos (character traits) of its members. These character traits are passed down from generation to generation through the example set by the parents. In our world today, where the trappings of financial success are often the criteria for a "good match," we would do well to remember this teaching. Exterior trimmings, such as wealth, have no substance; they can disappear overnight, leaving darkness and pain in their wake. So, when seeking a life partner, first and foremost, look for exemplary character traits: kindness, refinement, patience, humility, generosity, and simchas hachaim (a positive attitude toward life). Moreover, beware of those who gossip, are quick tempered, arrogant, cynical, unforgiving, miserly, jealous, and selfish. Don't be blinded by good looks and glamour. If positive character traits are lacking, then even the most beautiful face can turn ugly overnight.

PRAYER

Eliezer prayed to God that He do chesed for his master Abraham and grant that he find a wife for Isaac. It is difficult to understand why one would have to pray for a match for Isaac, a man who had it all. He was the scion of a great family, fabulously wealthy, magnificent in appearance, and brilliant; in short, a great catch. Who would not want to marry him? But from this we learn that when it comes to finding our life partners, we all need God's help. It's easy enough to get married, but to marry the right one - for that we need Divine assistance, for that, we have to pray. An especially auspicious time for prayer is during Minchah, the afternoon service, for that was the prayer that Isaac was reciting when he first beheld Rebecca.

CHESED

The litmus test that Eliezer used to recognize Isaac's bashert (Divinely destined life-partner) was chesed, kindness. "Let it be that the maiden to whom I shall say, 'Please tip over your jug so I may drink,' and who replies, 'Drink, and I will even water your camels,' her will you have designated for Your servant, for Isaac ...."[2]

To appreciate the awesomeness of this test, let us remember that drawing water from a well is no easy task, and satiating the thirst of ten camels can be backbreaking labor. It would have been reasonable for Rebecca to have told the stranger to draw his own water; however, not only did she refrain from responding in such a manner, but her offer of help exceeded Eliezer's expectations, as she watered the camels until they were satiated and then, when Eliezer asked for lodging for the night, offered him food and stabling for his animals as well.

DON'T COMPROMISE YOUR PRINCIPLES

Although Abraham made Eliezer take an oath that he would not seek a wife for Isaac from the daughters of Canaan, he also told him that if the girl refused to return with him, he would be absolved from the oath. Nevertheless, under no circumstances should Eliezer consider taking Isaac out of the land of Israel.

From this we learn that, as critical as it is to make a shidduch, it should never be made at the price of moving to a community that might stunt one's spiritual growth. Indeed, we must always make the effort to reside in a place where we can continually grow spiritually as Jews.

But if Eliezer were freed of his oath, whom would Isaac marry? Since he could not marry a woman from the land of Canaan, as Abraham had previously stipulated, and if no woman were willing to accompany Eliezer to Eretz Yisrael, what would happen to God's promise that the children of Abraham would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens?

Abraham had perfect faith in God and knew that His promise would be fulfilled. If there were no suitable matriarch of the Jewish People in Haran, one would be found elsewhere, somewhere. We learn that even if it appears that we are undertaking an impossible task, if that task is assigned by Hashem, we nevertheless follow God's commandments and trust that He will do the rest, as He did for our forefathers. Today, assimilation is rampant, intermarriage is rife, and people very often try to justify marrying out by claiming that there is no one else available. But God is the ultimate shadchan (matchmaker). We must trust Him to send us our destined life partner and He will surely do so.

MOVE ON - AVOID PROCRASTINATION

Eliezer very clearly challenged Rebecca's family. "And now, if you intend to do kindness and truth with my master, tell me," he demanded, "and if not, tell me, and I will turn to the right or to the left."[3] Eliezer wanted a clear yes or no, without delay, so he could continue to fulfill Abraham's command.

Once again, this is a teaching that we would do well to remember. Ours is a society in which procrastination is in vogue. People have a tendency to date endlessly, only to see their efforts end in futility. Often, critical months and even years are wasted and leave much heartbreak in their wake. Our Torah teaches that if a shidduch isn't working out, move on!

This teaching is also applicable in situations that end in painful breakups because one of the parties has a change of heart. Very often, the rejected party feels that his/her life has been put on hold and fears that the bashert shidduch has been lost. The teaching of our parashah comes to fortify such people. Eliezer could certainly have lost hope had they said no. After all, there were so many miraculous signs that indicated that Rebecca was Isaac's bashert and she was even a descendent of Abraham's own family. Yet Eliezer said, "Tell me yes or no, so that I may know whether I should turn right or left and continue my quest for a wife for Isaac."

NOTES

1. Gen. 24:3-4.
2. Ibid. 24:14.
3. Ibid. 24:49.

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