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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chayei Sarah; Avraham Avinu and His Servant Eliezer

24:1,2. VeHashem Beirach es Avrohom bakol..., avdo...hamosheil bechol asher lo. Avrohom was granted all he could possibly have, and Eliezer, his servant, ruled all that was Avrohom’s.

The Netziv here brings a Medrash on Bakol that says it means that Avraham was mosheil beyitzro, he ruled over all his human desires. He brings another Medrash that explains Eliezer's Hamosheil bechol asher lo the same way, that Eliezer ruled all his human desires. He asks, how can the Torah use the same praise for Avrohom and on Eliezer? If it is a shevach for Avrohom Ovinu, the one who thoroughly realized the truth of monotheism, the father of Klal Yisroel, the one who passed the ten nisyonos and called Eliezer a 'domeh lechamor,' how can the same thing be said of Eliezer? Does this imply parity or equivalence?

Harav Mordechai Eisenberg of Marlboro, New Jersey, added to the Netziv’s question: the Medrash says that when Eliezer came to see Lovon who said “bo beruch Hashem,” Lovon thought Eliezer was Avrohom because the klaster ponov, the glory of his appearance, seemed just like that of Avrohom.

The Netziv answers (with our hosofos) that the yeitzer of an Av Hamon Goyim is not the same as the yeitzer of an eved. The gadlus of being ‘shalit beyeitzer’ depends on how great that yeitzer is. An Av Hamon Goyim has to deal with all different kinds of people and he has enormous power. Both of these elements are corrupting influences, and threaten gadlus of middos. An eved, on the other hand, has a very circumscribed universe, and his yetzer hora and his control of it are on a much smaller scale. Avrohom ruled 'bakol'. Eliezer ruled 'bechol asher lo,' which is a far more circumscribed universe. Harav Eisenberg shtelled tzu the story about the Dubner Magid’s mussar to the Gaon, that if he had been more involved with people, he would have had a harder time being the Gaon. “Es iz nisht kein kuntz zayen a gaon in vinkaleh” (it is no trick to be a holy scholar if you stay isolated in your corner), to which the Gaon answered “Ich bin nisht kein kuntzmacher” (I am not a performer of tricks).

But Reb Mordechai asked an interesting question: how do Chazal they see from the word ‘Bakol’ that Hishlito beyitzro? So he said the following insight. This will help us understand the difference between the two shalitim be'yitzrom, and what Chazal mean when they say "bechol levovcho- bishtei yetzirecho."

The Rambam in Deiyos that says that the mesora of Avrohom is to serve Hashem in the derech hamemutza, the Golden Mean, the middle path. The Rambam adds that if a person who is fighting his bad middos finds himself going too far to one side, he should use his innate middos to pull himself back to the middle. We see that one can use the yetzer hora- the traits that are viewed as negative- in the service of good, such as when they are needed to temper excess in middos. So we can say that the difference between Avrohom and Eliezer was that Avrohom was at peace with his yetzer hora, he had enlisted it in avodas Hashem, he co-opted it. For Avrohom, beirach es Avrohom Bakol was a global brocho that enhanced all his traits- even the yetzer hora had a brocho— that it became more powerful, more effective. He was able to use his yetzer hora for avodas Hashem, so a brocho to the yetzer hora is a true brocho. Eliezer, on the other hand, reached the same madreiga through constant battle with the yetzer hora, a series of battles which never ended. So by Eliezer, it was not a brocho, it was hishlito. He did not co-opt his yeitzer hora, he vanquished it.

Also, the Rambam in the end of the first perek darshens derech hamemutza from the passuk “ki yedativ lema’an asher yetzaveh...”, so you see that Avrohom was a Rebbi in the derech hamemutza, and that was his great lesson in addressing the improvement of middos.

He looked in the Medrash, and by Avrohom it says “hishlito beyitzro;” by Eliezer Zkan Bayso, shehoyo domeh leAvrohom, and by Hamosheil bechol asher lo, shehoyo mosheil beyitzro kemoso.

On Chanukah 06/67, my shiur gave me the Tzofnas Pa’anei’ach ahl Hatorah, and I found a wonderful thing there that is precisely on point. See parshas Vayeishev, Breishis 39:2. He has a whole discussion about the two ways of becoming a tzadik; by making the yeitzer hora good, or by fighting and killing it. He brings the Yerushalmi Brochos 9:5 that says that Avrohom Ovinu made the yeitzer hora “tov.” But, the Yerushalmi says, Dovid Hamelech was not able “la’amod bo,” and so he killed his yeitzer hora– libi cholol b’kirbi. He says that Yosef, like Avrohom, ruled over his yeitzer hora, and was “sholeit” on it.

By the way, someone pointed out to me that Eliezer was the son of Nimrod. He had the chance of having a life of untrammeled and immediate gratification of any lust or desire for power. He abandoned this life for the chance of being a slave of Avrohom; Avrohom trusted him to find a wife for Yitzchok. So we have to appreciate who he was and what he accomplished. The fact that he was called an “orrur” was a matter of fate and yichus.

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