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Wedding Speeches for Chayei Sarah

Wedding Speeches for Chayei Sarah

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1.

An age-old profession in Jewish history, life and folklore is the shadchan — commonly known as the marriage broker. This was once so popular that it even took a place in halachah — Jewish law. There were many din Torahs and responsa written about how much money one is due for this service, which side must pay and what if one started and another finished, etc.

Unless one argues that the first shadchan was Hashem, when He paired together Adam and Chavah (and, in fact, according to the Midrash [Rabbah, Bereishit 68:4] this is one of His major preoccupations until this very day), it is indisputable that the first human shadchan on record was Eliezer, the faithful servant of Avraham.

We read at length in this week’s parshah, Chayei Sara, how Avraham commissions his most faithful servant, Eliezer, to seek out a suitable wife for his beloved son Yitzchak. We are told of Eliezer’s journey to Aram Naharayim where he meets a girl at the well, and puts her through a test to assure her kindness and good nature. Ultimately she passes her test with flying colors and even earns extra credit for performing better than anticipated. The rest of the story is familiar: Eliezer is immensely impressed with the young lady’s character and goes on to meet her family and conclude a marriage arrangement between her and Yitzchak.

The seemingly simple and fascinating story is, however, quite enigmatic.

Prior to sending off Eliezer on the important mission, Avraham had a meeting with him and instructed him concerning the prerequisites of the type of girl he preferred as a daughter-in-law. His instructions were very clear and free of any ambiguity. Avraham made him swear “that you not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. Rather, to my land and to my kindred shall you go and take a wife for my son Yitzchak” (24:3,4).

The instructions are succinct and unequivocal: “Go to my country of origin and take a wife from there.” Nowhere did Avraham tell him about a test or how to test her. Why did the shadchan do more than what was required of him? Based on my little experience in shidduchim, I would perhaps ask the girl if she graduated Beit Yaakov or Beit Rivkah or what seminary she attended. It would never dawn upon me to expose her to a rigorous test! What prompted Eliezer to do it?

Eliezer, as the longest-serving servant in the house of Avraham, knew that his master’s words were well chosen. Each word he uttered was to be listened to and analyzed carefully, for none of them were superfluous. Listening attentively to Avraham’s instructions that “you shall not take a wife for my son from daughters of the Canaanite” — asher anochi yosheiv bekirbo” — “among whom I dwell” — Eliezer began to wonder whether the words “asher anochi yosheiv bekirbo” — “among whom I dwell”--were superfluous. Did Avraham think that after living in his household for so many years, Eliezer did not know where he was presently living?

Eliezer concluded that Avraham was imparting something essential to properly fulfilling his mission.

There is one word that can go a long way to insure wedded bliss, and the word is “selflessness.” Conversely, nothing can be as detrimental and debasing to a marriage as selfishness, where consideration for the word “I” is given primacy. Little wonder, then, that when Avraham sent his servant back to the old country, he was particularly anxious to impress upon him his fear that Isaac might marry someone from a community where selfishness and consideration for the “I” was so paramount.

Therefore, Eliezer understood that his master was telling him not to dare take a wife for Yitzchak from the daughters of Canaan, “asher anochi yosheiv bekirbo — among whom the bad trait of anochi — selfishness, self-centeredness and lack of consideration for others — dwells in their midst.”

In the lexicon of Avraham’s home, the term “I” didn’t exist. There chesed was practiced par excellence, and the household members were attuned to altruistically providing the needs of others. To them the needs of the other were a priority and never was selfishness a hindrance to graciousness and hospitality.

Following Avraham’s instructions, Eliezer put Rivkah through the rigorous test of drawing water for him and his camels to assure that she was good-natured and without selfishness or egotism.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, as children of Avraham Avinu — our great father Avraham — may you merit that throughout your marriage selfishness not enter into your abode. May goodness and kindness be your pursuit and ambition both among yourselves and in relation to others. Living such a lifestyle will assure you that just as Hashem told Avraham “All the nations of the world will bless themselves to be like you,” likewise, your home will be the example of a happy and blessed marriage that all will envy and yearn to emulate.


2.

The Torah reading for this week, parshat Chayei Sarah, relates in detail the events that led up to and culminated in the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivkah.

Nowadays, (except in very relgious communities) many Jewish marriages are rarely arranged through the medium of a shadchan — matchmaker. Avraham, however, commissioned his faithful servant Eliezer to serve as a shadchan to seek out a suitable wife for his son.

Regardless of the disrepute in some quarters of the shadchanut profession, it would be worth our while to study the method employed by the first matchmaker mentioned in the Torah.

When Eliezer was commissioned by Avraham to select a bride for Yitzchak, he took his responsibility seriously. He realized that no random choice would do. He therefore devised a plan to assure the proper companion for his young master. He prayed to G‑d thus: “Behold, I stand by the fountain of water ... so let it come to pass that the maiden to whom I shall say ‘Let down the pitcher that I may drink’ and she shall say ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also,’ let the same be the one that You have appointed for Your servant Yitzchak”(24:13-14).

The rest of the story is familiar. Rivkah came forward and offered water to him and the camels. Eliezer had every right to be thrilled and happy. Yet we read that “The man (Eliezer) was astonished at her, reflecting silently to know, whether Hashem had made his journey successful or not.” He was still in doubt. It was only when Rivkah consented to accept the gift of a pair of bracelets that Eliezer was satisfied, exclaiming “Praised be Hashem who has not forsaken His kindness and His truth toward my master” (24:26).

Why was Eliezer in doubt before Rivkah accepted the gift, and what reassured him when she took the bracelets?

The answer is to be found in Rashi’s commentary as to the significance of the pair of bracelets he bestowed on her.

Rashi says that the two bracelets were an allusion to the “shenei luchot metzumadot” — the two paired together Tablets. Similarly, their particular weight of asarah zahav — ten gold shekels — was “an allusion to the Ten Commandments upon them.” What message was Eliezer giving Rivkah with this gift?

The first five Commandments stress things which are bein adam laMakom — between man and G‑d — and the second five concern matters bein adam lachaveiro — interpersonal relationships.

Some people excel in interpersonal relationships. They are constantly involved in helping people, visiting the sick, comforting the bereaved, giving to the needy and conducting business in an honest and ethical way. However, they may neglect to perform the obligations man has to Hashem, such as eating kosher, donning the Tefillin, observing Shabbat, etc. Others exhibit the reverse behavior. They meticulously fulfill their required obligations to Hashem but their conduct in business and involvement in people’s needs leaves much to be desired.

Though one of the Tablets concerns a person’s relations with Hashem and the other Tablet deals with interpersonal relations, they are metzumadot — paired together — to emphasize that both are equally important and that one is inseparable from the other.

First, Eliezer tested Rivkah in the attribute of chesed — kindness. She passed with flying colors and demonstrated that she would fit very well into the home of Avraham, which was renowned for its chesed and hospitality. With the giving of the bracelets, Eliezer was indicating that in his master’s home serving Hashem with heart, mind and soul was also equally important. A prerequisite to becoming a member of Avraham’s family was to excel not only in chesed, interpersonal relations, but also in avodat Hashem — service of Hashem — and they must go hand in hand.

When Rivkah accepted the gift, which was her acquiescence and demonstration of understanding of the values of Avraham’s family, Eliezer was certain that the match was Divinely ordained. He then thanked Hashem, knowing that with this young couple the principles of Torah and chesed would continue to flourish in the house established by Avraham and Sarah.

My advice to you, dear Chatan and Kallah, is to remember the lesson that Eliezer, the “father” of shadchanut, taught. With Torah and chesed prevailing in your home, you will receive Hashem’s blessings for a long-lasting and blissful marriage.


3.

The Torah relates that when Eliezer was convinced that Rivkah was the suitable wife for Eliezer, “The man took a golden nose ring, its weight a beka, and two bracelets on her arms, ten gold shekel their weight” (24:22). What is the significance of these gifts, and what particular message was Eliezer imparting with the bracelets?

Rashi writes that the nose band weighing a beka was an allusion to the shekalim of Israel, i.e. the half shekel the Jews donated annually to the Beit Hamikdash, which were “beka lagulgolat” — “a beka for every head” (Shemot 38:26).

The two bracelets were an allusion to the two paired Tablets of the Covenant and the weight of ten gold shekels was an allusion to the Ten Commandments upon them.

With the golden pendants weighing a beka Eliezer was emphasizing the mitzvah of tzedakah, which the Gemara says (Bava Batra 9a) is “the totality of all mitzvot.”

The two Tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments represent the totality of the Torah (see Zohar, Shemot 90b: Bamidbar Rabbah 13:16 and 18:21) which the Jewish people took upon themselves fully, with kabbalat ol — total submission — by stating, ‘we shall do’ before saying ‘we shall hear’ (study and understand). These were the token of betrothal because the foundation of a Jewish home is Torah and mitzvot in the spirit of kabbalat ol.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe derives a beautiful lesson from Eliezer’s giving two bracelets to correspond to the two Tablets on which the Ten Commandments were not inscribed, but engraved.

The Written Torah in general consists of written letters — ink on parchment. The ink, i.e., the letters, is something distinct, as is the parchment. The combination of these two entities brings about the Written Torah.

In the Oral Torah, too, there are two distinct entities: the content-matter of Torah, and the individual who studies the Torah.

The letters of the Ten Commandments on the Tablets, however, were engraved. The Tablets thus were not distinct from the Ten Commandments, because the letters were made of the Tablets themselves. ”Engraved letters” in the service of G‑d are analogous to the idea stated in the Gemara (Kiddushin 32b): “If one merits, it becomes his Torah”; that is, he and the Torah become one singular entity.

Eliezer, thus, gave specifically two bracelets to correspond to the Tablets. He meant to show that for the proper Jewish home, which must be based on the foundations of Torah and mitzvot, it is not enough that a Jew observe the Torah carefullyif he and the Torah remain distinct one from another. Rather, he and the Torah must become one. He himself must become Torah — to become one with “I am the Eternal your G‑d” and with all of the other commandments of the Ten Commandments.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, it is crucial for you to remember Eliezer’s message, and hopefully you will strive to build a home which will be part and parcel with Torah and Yiddishkeit.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"א)


"ויוצא העבד כלי כסף וכלי זהב ובגדים ויתן לרבקה"
“The servant [Eliezer] brought out silver and gold jewelry and clothing and gave it to Rivkah.” (24:53)

QUESTION: All types of jewelry can be worn by anyone regardless of age. However, clothing must fit to size. How did Eliezer know in advance what clothing would fit Rivkah?

ANSWER: In the home of Avraham there was much emphasis on the laws of tzeniut — modesty. The men, women, and children dressed according to halachah. Eliezer’s mission was to find a suitable wife for Yitzchak. The young lady would undoubtedly prepare a wardrobe of new clothing to wear after her marriage. He therefore carried with him a sample of the type of clothing women were expected to wear in the homes of Avraham and Yitzchak.

(מהרי"ד מבלז זצ"ל)

Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky has been a pulpit rabbi for over thirty years, and is author of more than ten highly acclaimed books on the Parshiot and holidays. His Parshah series, Vedibarta Bam, can be purchased here.
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