Monday, March 31, 2008

Eliezer’s Wit

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 11b - 12a) states: One who tells his agent, “Go and betroth a woman for me” (and the agent died), the man is prohibited from marrying any woman in the world because there is a presumption that the agent accomplished that which he was asked to do.

The Mefaresh explains: Since the man did not specify a particular woman for him to marry and we do not know which woman he betrothed, this man may not marry any woman, for we are concerned that the woman he wishes to marry is the mother, or daughter, or sister of the woman that the agent married for him.

The Mahari Asad uses this Gemara to answer the following questions: Avraham Avinu sent his servant Eliezer to find a suitable wife for his son, Yitzchak. Eliezer went to the house of Besuel. The Torah writes: And he (Besuel) placed food in front of him (Eliezer) to eat, and he (Eliezer) said, “I cannot eat until I have spoken my words.”

Why didn’t Eliezer want to discuss with Besuel the instructions that Avraham, his master gave him before he ate?

Chazal say that Besuel intended to kill Eliezer by poisoning his food. What did Besuel hope to accomplish with that?

He explains: Besuel knew that if Eliezer would die, Yitzchak would be forbidden to all women in the world, for each and every woman might be the relative of the woman to whom Eliezer betrothed. This is why Besuel wanted Eliezer dead. Eliezer understood this and therefore refused to eat until he had spoken. He informed Besuel that Avraham gave him specific instructions that he should only take a wife for Yitzchak from his own family. Accordingly, even if Eliezer would die without notifying Avraham whom he betrothed, Yitzchak would only be forbidden to the women in his own family, but he would be permitted to all other women in the world. He was telling Besuel that he would not be accomplishing much by murdering him.