Chayei Sarah - The speech of the servants is precious
Chananya Weissman

חיי שרה

יפה שיחתן של עבדי אבות

רש"י (פרק כד פסוק מב)

. . .אמר רבי אחא יפה שיחתן של עבדי אבות לפני המקום מתורתן של בנים, שהרי פרשה של אליעזר כפולה בתורה, והרבי גופי תורה לא ניתנו אלא ברמיזה:

בראשית רבה (פרשה ס אות ח)

אמר ר' אחא יפה שיחתן של עבדי בתי אבות מתורתן של בנים, פרשתו של אליעזר שנים וג' דפים הוא אומרה ושונה, ושרץ מגופי תורה, ואין דמו מטמא כבשרו אלא מריבוי המקרא:

Rabbi Acha notes almost plaintively that the Torah devotes so much space to a detailed recounting of Eliezer's experience, while many fundamental halachos are revealed to us only through derashos on the most minimal textual superfluities. We see from here that even the "ordinary conversation" of the servants of the forefathers is more precious to Hashem than the scholarship of Chazal.

Q: It is impossible to take this statement at face value. After all, Eliezer and the avos themselves had many conversations over the course of their respective lifetimes that are not recorded for all time. Surely there is more significance in the recording of this one than a quaint demonstration of affection for the avos.

Q: Why indeed should so much space be devoted to this story, considering the perfectly parsimonious wording of the Torah? Wouldn't we be better off if the Torah simply stated "And Eliezer told them all that had happened", and used the rest of the space to teach us any number of things?

A: If you read through the two accounts of the story carefully, you will find many subtle discrepancies between what actually happened and how Eliezer recounted it. Rashi and the Ohr Hachaim note several of these discrepancies, and explain that Eliezer changed some of the details to avoid making an unfavorable impression on Rivka's family.

For example, Eliezer said his tefilla with the details of the test aloud, but he recounted that he only thought it to himself. Otherwise, the relatives would have claimed that Rivka passed the test only because she knew of it in advance, and Hashem's intervention had nothing to do with it. Eliezer gave Rivka the jewelry before even asking her identity, but he recounted it differently, lest the family question his moral integrity, if not his very sanity, for giving jewelry to a strange girl.

The parsha is filled with many such discrepancies, most of which are unexplained by the meforshim, thus leaving a treasure-trove of insights for the thoughtful reader to discover. All the discrepancies, however, center around the same idea: Eliezer recognized that even one wrong word or one statement taken out of context would jeopardize the shidduch. Even a truly God-fearing family would hesitate to send a young daughter away to be married off and entrust her with a strange man of suspect character. Eliezer measured his every word with impeccable precision to gain their trust and demonstrate that this was truly the will of Hashem. And this wasn't "only" a shidduch at stake, but the very future of the Jewish people!

In light of this, it's no wonder that Hashem deemed this sicha extremely precious and worthy of several columns in the Torah. Those who read this story year after year have much to learn from it, moral lessons that transcend the technicalities of halacha. To clarify the latter we must study rigorously, turning every letter of the Torah this way and that. To teach us the power of every word, and the great appreciation for this demonstrated by a "mere" eved of the avos, is well worth a lengthy description.