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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Chayei Sara

ACTORS AND DIRECTORS

Rabbi Stewart WeissCheshvan 22 5777
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"At the end of the day, Hashem will have his way."

The complexx interplay between Man’s ability to act with B’Chira Chofsheit - free choice, and the influence of Hashgacha Pratit – Divine supervision, is one of the thorniest theological issues of all time. They would seem, on the surface, to be contradictory: If G-d ultimately decides, then what role does Man play? And if we can act, while Hashem "sits on the sidelines," then when is G-d’s power ever activated?

In this week’s Sedra, Avraham sends his servant Eliezer to find a proper mate for Yitzchak. Eliezer prays to G-d that his mission will be successful (his very name means "May the Lord help me!") but deep down, say Chazal, Eliezer has a bit of a different agenda. You see, he
himself had a daughter that he would love to fix up with Yitzchak, who will inherit Avraham’s wealth and pedigree.

And so, while he does indeed set out to find a match for Yitzchak, Eliezer sets some very tough conditions: "That girl, who is Yitzchak’s intended, must not only give me water to drink, but must also water my camels." This kind of conditional set-up flies in the face of the Biblical warning, "Lo T’Nasu et Hashem Elokecha" – you shall not test G-d. And yet, Hashem, as it were, suspends His own ruling and allows Eliezer’s condition to be met by Rivka, so that Yitzchak will indeed end up marrying her and continuing Jewish history.

And then there is Lavan. Despite his pure-sounding name, he is a dark and devious character. He is swayed by the largesse given by Eliezer to Rivka, and lusts for a chunk of Avraham’s wealth. He tries to persuade Rivka to stay on in his home, but she will have none of it. He then gives her a bracha – amazingly, the very same one we still give to brides at their wedding: "May you, our sister, give rise to tens of thousands…." Say Chazal: Lavan, too, had an ulterior motive for bestowing this flowery blessing; there is a tradition that the children will resemble their mother’s older brother!

Later, Lavan will try to swindle his nephew Yakov out of his wife Rachel, but here, too, he will be denied. Yakov is meant, on a mystical level, to produce the 12 Tribes from more than one wife, and so, despite his actions, Lavan becomes a "messenger" of Hashem in order to carry out His plan for history and the perpetuation of Am Yisrael.

All too often, we look at events – some of them of our own choosing - and wonder where will they lead? Did we choose the wrong path? Is there a way out of this mess? No doubt that there will be consequences for our choices. But as we said, at the end of the day, Hashem will have his way.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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