Secret Servant: Lekh Lekha 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How easy will it be for you to leave your legacy in the hands of others? What do you need to teach them about you and your values?

In this week’s Torah portion, God promises Abraham numerous blessings for him and his descendents – but Abraham fears there will be no one to receive those blessings:

The Pitch: “But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what can You give me, seeing that I shall die childless, and the one in charge of my household is Dammesek Eliezer!’” – Genesis 15:2

Swing #1: “According to Rashi’s interpretation, this was Abraham’s way of pointing out a serious shortcoming in Eliezer. Every great teacher in Israel has an approach of his own. Thus Abraham’s way was that of loving-kindness; Isaac’s device was ‘the fear of the Lord’ and Jacob taught ‘truth’ as the supreme principle. But Eliezer could only pass on to others the instruction he himself had received from his master and teacher, Abraham. Therefore Abraham said to the Lord: ‘Eliezer has devised no original teachings. He can do no more than pass on what he has learned from me. That I can do myself. What good, then, would Eliezer be to me? If he has no teachings of his own to give, how could he take my place?’” – MaHaRaM of Piltz

Swing #2: “For all his commitment to duty, Eliezer is an ambivalent figure, hard to pin down. First of all, we should not see him as any kind of lowly step’n’fetchit slave of modern imagining. In the ancient Near East, a servant need not be servile. He could own property, even a large estate including other slaves. To be a servant was no mark of shame.” – David Klinghoffer, The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism

Swing #3: “At first [Abraham] complained, ‘What [good] is my reward, since I have no children, and I am going about as a vagrant and a wanderer in a foreign land, as alone as a ‘cactus in the desert’ (Jeremiah 17:6). No one comes and goes in my house except for Eliezer, [who is] a foreigner whom I procured from Damascus, [and is] not from my father’s family nor [even] from my [home] land.” – Ramban

Late-Inning Questions: According to our commentators, what are the pros and cons of Eliezer being the beneficiary of Abraham’s blessings? Does Abraham seem to think of Eliezer as part of his family? To what extent can we include non-blood-relatives into our families?

The Big Inning at the End: On Wednesday night, during Game 2 of the 2017 World Series, Jewish ballplayers combined to hit a single, double, and home run. One commentator on Twitter proclaimed that we were a triple away from a “Minyan Cycle.”

Shabbat Shalom!