The Elevation of the Emissary Who Completes His Mission
Our parsha recounts the mission of Abraham’s servant Eliezer, which was to journey to Abraham’s home and find a wife for his son Isaac.
When Eliezer arrived at his destination, he encountered Rebecca near a well and presented her with gifts. Rebecca then returned home and told her entire family what had happened. When her brother Laban learned of this, he was immediately seized with a desire to steal from Eliezer. Scripture says of Laban: “When he saw the nose ring and the bracelets…he went to the man, and behold, he was standing by the camels at the fountain, and he said, ‘Come, O blessed of the L-RD’ ” (Genesis 24:30-31). On this the Midrash states: “When he saw the nose ring, he immediately went out to kill him. Realizing that something bad was about to happen, Eliezer invoked the Name of Hashem and levitated the camels over the wells, and then he levitated himself besides the camels. When Laban saw this, he realized that Eliezer was a tzaddik. Therefore he said to him, ‘Come, O blessed of the L-RD,’ for Laban mistook Eliezer for Abraham, and in fact they looked the same. Although Eliezer was a descendant of Canaan, he was able to move from the category of the accursed to that of the blessed because he served the tzaddik so faithfully” (Yalkut Shimoni 108).
We need to understand why Eliezer levitated the camels in addition to himself. By levitating himself alone, Laban would have still realized that Eliezer was a tzaddik, therefore why include the camels as well? Also, how was it possible that Laban, who was a thoroughly wicked idol-worshipper, mentioned Hashem’s Name in saying, “Come, O blessed of the L-RD”? How could he be trusted? Even later on when he said, “The matter stemmed from the L-RD” (Genesis 24:50), are we to assume that he suddenly believed in the reality of Hashem, Whom he had completely denied up to that point? Even when Jacob would later dwell with Laban, he continued to practice idolatry and learned nothing from Jacob’s Torah, nor from the Torah of his sons and daughters. Yet here he suddenly believes in Hashem and invokes His Name several times?
Above all, we need to understand why Abraham made Eliezer swear that he would find a wife for his son from among his own family. Eliezer taught the Torah of his master to others (Yoma 28b), hence it is obvious that he would carry out Abraham’s instructions. How could it be, then, that Abraham had so little faith in Eliezer that he made him take an oath?
Let us try to explain this as best we can. When Eliezer encountered Rebecca by the well and gave her jewels, she returned home and told her mother what had happened. Upon hearing this, Laban quickly realized that Eliezer was carrying a great deal of wealth, as our Sages have mentioned. At that point, however, Laban suddenly perceived that Eliezer’s face resembled Abraham’s. This means that Eliezer had elevated himself so greatly that he eventually looked like him.
Since Abraham brought people to G-d (Bereshith Rabba 39:14), Eliezer obvious did the same, for he drank from the Torah of his master for the sake of others. Thus Eliezer succeeded in bringing Laban a bit closer to Hashem, and therefore Laban evoked His Name by saying, “Come, O blessed of the L-RD.” Consequently, when Eliezer perceived his own spiritual stature, his personal interests began to assail him. He had a daughter that he wanted Isaac to marry, since he had served Abraham faithfully and did not see why he should remain cursed forever.
Despite all this, Eliezer overcame his great trial. He paid no attention to his personal interests, and instead was happy to leave on his mission and carry it out. In fact he saw his error and realized that the reason he changed from being accursed to blessed was because of his loyalty to his mission, without which he would have remained cursed. Why did his face begin to resemble Abraham’s? It was because he was Abraham’s emissary, and as the Sages tell us: “A man’s emissary is as himself” (Berachot 34b; Kiddushin 41b). Thus despite the lofty spiritual heights that Eliezer reached, he continued to call Abraham his master (Genesis 24:12), meaning that he did not become proud on account of his greatness. It is precisely for this reason that he merited having his words accepted in Laban’s house.
We now understand why Abraham made Eliezer take an oath. It was not because Abraham did not trust him, but because he wanted to subtly tell Eliezer that he was still among the accursed, meaning that every blessing he bestowed would only be fulfilled if he faithfully carried out his mission. Therefore when Eliezer actually carried it out, his face began to resemble Abraham’s due to his uprightness. That in itself enabled Eliezer to infuse a few thoughts of repentance into Laban’s heart. We see a great principle at work here, which is that when a person ignores his own interests for the good of others, Hashem grants him success, just as the Sages have said: “Anyone who prays on behalf of his fellow when he himself needs that very same thing, he is answered first” (Bava Kama 92a). This is why Eliezer succeeded in his mission, even if (by bringing people closer to G-d and having become blessed) he himself was worthy of concluding a marriage between his daughter and Abraham’s son. Despite this, Eliezer continued to faithfully carry out his mission and did not take advantage of his spiritual loftiness for personal gain.
Abraham’s intention was to arrange a marriage precisely within his own clan – in which a mixture of good and evil existed – not among the descendants of Canaan, who were wicked sinners. In fact Eliezer followed Abraham’s path in this respect by disregarding himself and thinking only of how to accomplish his mission in the right frame of mind. Hence in the end he merited leaving the category of the accursed and entering into that of the blessed. This applies not only to shidduchim, but to all things; it pertains to every task we assume. When we are only concerned with the other person’s interests and what is good for him, we will be successful. From this we learn a very important principle in all areas of life: A person must not use his position for personal gain. Instead, as soon as he represents someone else, he must fulfill his mission with all the intention it rightfully deserves. We too will eventually be honored if we act as such, though we must not rush things in any way.