Rebbe, I want to see Elijah the Prophet,” a chassid once told the Baal Shem Tov.

“I’ll tell you what to do,” said the Baal Shem Tov. “Get two boxes and fill one with food and the other with children’s clothes. Then, before Rosh Hashanah, travel to such-and-such a town. On the outskirts of town, right where the forest begins, is a dilapidated house. Find that house, but don’t knock on the door immediately; stand there for a while and listen. Then, shortly before candle-lighting time at sunset, knock on the door and ask for hospitality.”

Off he went. He arrived at the home, and stood in front of the door, listening. Inside, he heard children crying, “Mommy, we’re hungry. And it’s Yom Tov and we don’t even have decent clothes to wear!” He heard the mother answer, “Children, trust in G‑d. He’ll send Elijah the Prophet to bring you everything you need!”

The chassid stayed for the holiday, sharing his food and clothes with the destitute family. But Elijah the prophet he did not see.

When he returned to the Baal Shem Tov with complaints that he didn’t see Elijah, the Rebbe told him to go back for Yom Kippur and do the exact same thing.

Again, he stood in front of the door, listening. Inside he heard children crying, “Mommy, we’re hungry! We haven’t eaten the whole day! How can we fast for Yom Kippur?” “Children!” said the mother, “Do you remember before Rosh Hashanah I told you, ‘Trust in G‑d! He’ll send Elijah the Prophet, who’ll bring you food and clothing and everything else you need!’ Wasn’t I right? Didn’t Elijah come and bring you food and clothing? He stayed with us for two days! Now you’re crying again that you’re hungry. I promise you that Elijah will come now, too, and bring you food!”

Then the chassid understood what his master, the Baal Shem Tov, had meant. And he knocked on the door.

Eliezer’s Choice

Parshat Chayei Sarah tells the story of Isaac’s marriage. His father, Abraham, designated his servant Eliezer as a matchmaker, sending him off to his native land to find a suitable wife for Isaac. The Torah devotes a significant amount of space to this story, repeating it over in its entirety, giving us a window into Eliezer’s thoughts. All things considered, Eliezer was the prime example of a good servant, faithful to his master and his ways.

Indeed, the Midrash links Eliezer to the words in Proverbs1 that speak of an “intelligent servant,” commenting:

An intelligent servant: This is a reference to Eliezer. What was his intelligence? He figured: I am destined to indentured service . . . it’s best to be a servant in Abraham’s house and not any other.2

This is a puzzling Midrash. Is this supposed to be some sort of praise for Eliezer? It doesn’t sound so praiseworthy. All it says is that Eliezer made an economic and entirely self-serving choice to be a servant in the best-possible home, rather than be unfairly treated elsewhere. What’s so special about this choice that makes Eliezer a model for “wise choices?”

Eliezer’s Brilliance

Sometimes discovering the answer requires searching for more information, deeper insight, or a little debunking. Other times the answer is right there, in the question itself.

This is one such instance. Eliezer’s brilliance was exactly that: his choice to stick with Abraham.

Why is that so brilliant?

Think about it. For whatever reason, Eliezer’s “station” was one of servitude. Considering the hand he was dealt, Eliezer made the following calculation: I’m not going to look elsewhere. I’m not going to try to be something I’m not. Rather, I’m going to make the best of my current situation and choose the here and now. I’m going to be the best servant in the best home and be really good at it. And with that, I’m going to be happy.

This, my friends, is indeed quite wise and brilliant. How many people do you know who are looking elsewhere to find their inner happiness and their role in life? How many people wake up each morning and find joy and meaning in their current situation? How many people truly appreciate what they’re already doing?

I would venture not many.

But Eliezer was an extraordinarily wise man. He loved what he did and found his purpose right there. And sure enough, his story lives on in the verses of our parshah, earning him a prominent place in our collective imagination.

Be Wise

Eliezer’s wise choice is one we can and should all make. So many of us are frustrated with our lives, nursing some sort of image of what life “should be,” throwing up our hands in despair at how it’s turning out.

Did your parents tell you that you could be anything you wanted? Did your teachers convince you that you would be the next president of the United States or the greatest inventor since Nikolas Tesla? Were your friends always telling you that you were the life of the party and would be super popular and successful as an adult? Or perhaps you read something when you were younger and created a fantasy image of what your life would look like.

And then you wake up one fine morning, look around, and realize that very little, if any, of that is your current reality. You’re not the president, you’re not particularly wealthy, and the picture of a tidy family with smiling faces is, well … not exactly the case.

What do you do?

Many people make the decision to bolt. To run away to something or somewhere else. To chase that fantasy and try to create the picture of yesteryear. They itch to be something different, to find a new reality, a new job, a new family, a new place to live, a new circle of friends—whatever it takes to climb out of their monotonous, mediocre life.

It is here that Eliezer’s wise choice starts to look positively genius. Find the meaning in your current life. Forget about the fantasy. G‑d has engineered matters for you to be right where you are, and if you’re smart about it, you can find tremendous joy and meaning in it.

Who knows? You may just be Elijah the prophet himself.3