When Opposites Attract

Why did Avraham consider Eliezer to be cursed if Lavan referred to him as “the blessed of HaShem”?
If the cursed cannot bond with the blessed how are we to understand the unions of Shechem and Dinah, the Queen of Shevah and Shlomo the King et al?
Why didn’t Eliezer seek a girl who would do chessed proactively before having to be asked?

He [Noach] said, “Cursed is Cannan! He shall be a slave’s slave to his brothers”

— Bereishis 9:25

 “I will compel you with an oath in the name of HaShem, L-rd of Heaven and L-rd of earth that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live.”

— Bereishis 24:3

“My master compelled me with an oath ‘Do not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I reside. Instead you must go to my father’s house, to my family, and get a wife for my son there.’ I [then] said to my master ‘Perhaps the woman [from your family] will not follow me [back to Canaan]’? “

— Bereishis 24:37-39

Perhaps the woman will not follow me: It [the word אֻלַי (perhaps)] is written [lacking a “vav” and may be read] אֵלַי (to me). Eliezer had a daughter, and he sought a pretext so that Avraham would tell him, to turn to him [i.e. Eliaezers family], so that Yitzchok would marry his daughter. Avraham said to him, “My son is blessed, and you are cursed [Eliezer was a descendant of Canaan who had been cursed by Noach], and an accursed one cannot bond with a blessed one.”

— Rashi ibid

And Lavan said “Come O he who is blessed by HaShem! Why are you still standing outdoors? I have cleared the house [of what you might find offensive] and prepared a place for the camels.”

— Bereishis 24:31

Why is Mt. Sinai so called? [Sinai is, alliteratively, similar to the lashon kodesh-biblical Hebrew; word for hatred] Because it was there that hatred descended to the idolaters [for they rejected the Torah that was revealed there].

— Shabbos 89A and Rashi ibid

The intensity of the hatred that ignorami have for Torah scholars exceeds that of the anti-Semitism that the idolaters bear towards the nation of Israel …

— Pesachim 49B

As faces in the reflecting pool mirror one another, so too do the hearts of men.

— Mishlei 27:19

He [Eliezer] prayed O HaShem, L-rd of my master Avraham, be with me today and grant favor to my master Avraham … If I say to a girl ‘Tip over your jug and let me have a drink’ and she responds ‘drink and I will also hydrate your camels’ she will be the one whom You have designated [as a bride] for your servant Yitzchok.”

— Bereishis 24:12,14

When discussing the metaphysics of matchmaking Avraham declares “… an accursed one cannot bond with a blessed one.” Yet TeNaC”h-the Jewish Torah canon; is replete with desired, attempted and actual unions, both marital and extra-marital, between evil and good.  The assertion that evil cannot unite with good, that curse cannot cleave to blessing; seems to be unsupportable in light of such matches and near-miss marriages as those of Shechem and Dinah, Potiphar’s wife and Yoseph, Kozbee and Zimri and Achashveirosh and Esther, et al.

Moreover Rav Tzadok, the Kohen of Lublin, observes that while, per Chazal, Avraham rejected Eliezers marriage proposal on the grounds of Eliezer being cursed the Torah quotes Lavan as describing Eliezer as “he who is blessed by HaShem.”  Presumably “the Torah of truth” would not record nonsense, hyperbole or the insincere flattery of a sycophant. If Lavans words are true it means that at some point between Avraham rejecting his shidduch proposal and Lavan greeting him, Eliezer underwent a qualitative transformation from being accursed to being blessed.

The Lubliner Kohen illuminates the dynamic of a metamorphosis at least as astonishing as that of the caterpillar-into-butterfly variety.

Evil and Good are in a state of constant and intense antipathy towards each other.  They want no truck with one another and do not desire merger. Shlomo the king teaches in Mishlei that “as faces in the reflecting pool mirror one another, so too do the the hearts of men.” The nature of “emotion” is cyclical and reciprocal and so, the vicious cycle of abhorrence and recrimination between Evil and Good perpetually intensifies the alienation between the two.  But, at the risk of sounding trite, this begs the question: Who started the hostilities and estrangement?  Who’s to blame for the inability to come together?

A close reading of Rashi, “an accursed (one) cannot bond with a blessed (one)”reveals that it is evil that finds itself incapable of cleaving to good; it is not the other way around. I might add that this understanding is further supported by the gemara in Pesachim 49B that speaks of the hatred of the ignoramii and the idolatrous nations first, although it is safe to presume that the Torah Scholars and the Nation of Israel bear reciprocal loathing towards those who hate them. The passage in Shabbos 89A that pinpoints the origin of the Divine Hatred of the idolatrous nations at Sinai, only after they rejected the Torah, further bolsters this argument. Yet this makes it even more difficult to understand why it was Eliezer who initiated the proposed match between the daughter of Eliezer the cursed and the son of Avraham the blessed.

It is important to note that that Eliezer never articulated an explicit marriage proposal.  The proposal, such as it was, was an insubstantial allusion, a mere wordplay.  The Vilna Gaon explains that Chazal detected the subliminal marriage proposal in Eliezer employing the word אֻלַי–perhaps; connoting a desired outcome, rather than פן–lest; connoting a scenario to be avoided. Moreover the Kotzker Rebbe insightfully points out that even this mere hint of a proposed match does not appear in the Torahs narrative of the actual dialogue between Eliezer and Avraham.  It is only later, during Eliezers repetition of that conversation to Rivkas family, that he had an epiphany and understood why he had employed the word אֻלַי rather than פן.

Along these lines, and to address the issues of evil and good bonding, the Lubliner Kohen maintains that during his actual conversation with Avraham, Eliezer revealed his subconscious desires in what contemporaries might call a Freudian slip, because he only had blessed potential at the time, but was not quite ready to transform into a full-fledged blessed being until after his encounter with Rivka. The nascence of his transformation from cursed to blessed began as soon as he accepted the mission of his master Avraham but, as he had not yet actualized his potential for blessedness he was, as yet, incapable of verbalizing his desire to unite with and cleave to the good and blessed on an overt level.

Based on this understanding of our parashah the Lubliner Kohen extrapolates overarching principles that explain many of the counterintuitive examples of “evil cleaving to/ bonding with good” scattered throughout TeNaC”h.

These unions come about in one of two ways:

A. As was the case with Eliezer, when emerging or deeply-buried good/blessedness that exists within evil asserts itself and /or experiences an irresistible magnetic attraction to the hue in the prism of good with which it shares a common root and that exerts a pull upon it. Whether the union actually occurred or was merely proposed / attempted would depend on the degree and intensity of the good within the evil partner in the “marriage.” While providing examples of this type of “an accursed (one) bonding with a blessed (one)” the Lubliner Kohen avers that the attempted seduction of Yocheved and Miriam by the Egyptian Pharaoh was illustrative of his “good” finding their stripe of good irresistible. Yocheved and Miriam were the progenitors of Dovid the King and of Moshiach-the messiah. Interpreting the passuk “And many nations shall flow unto him” (see Yeshayahu 2:2.3) the Midrash Shochar Tov 21, says that Moshaiachs role and function will be to teach Mitzvos to the nations of the world. And so it was that the “good” in Pharaoh seeking moral instruction was drawn to the good in Yocheved and Miriam that would produce the moral teacher.

B. In the Garden of Eden, the ingestion of the fruit of the Tree of Union of Good and Evil created a universal mishmash of good and evil; both in the microcosm that is man and in the macrocosm. In the post-Eden world there is no pure, unadulterated good. There are times when “evil cleaving to/ bonding with good” seeks to do so because it is attracted to the evil within the good that resonates with it.

The Lubliner Kohen does not clarify how Eliezers encounter with Rivka actualized his potential for goodness and blessedness. However, the second Izhbitzer does offer a helpful insight that may help explain it; but first another question must be asked.  When Eliezer prayed for the success of his mission he said “… If I say to a girl ‘Tip over your jug and let me have a drink’ and she responds ‘drink and I will also hydrate your camels’ etc.” Why was he looking for a girl who needed to be prompted to perform chessed-lovingkindness? Wouldn’t a young lady who intuitively anticipated the needs of others before being asked have been an even more appropriate match to join the family of Avraham, the pillar of chessed?

Citing a Zohar in parashas Terumah the second Izhbitzer reveals that it is the nature of the sitra achara-the “side” / force of evil; to overflow, and bestow unasked-for favors so that the recipient, having never earned these favors, can never call them his own. Whereas the nature of the sitra dikedushah-the “side” / force of good; awaits human prayer before brimming over and pouring out favors so that the recipient can actually take ownership of the good and call them “[that which was earned through] the exertion of his palms”.  This is why Eliezer “tested” the prospective bride by asking for a kindness instead of awaiting proactive benevolence.

It may be that in his encounter with Rivka, by relating to the sitra dikedushah prayerfully, both by praying to HaShem and by beginning an interpersonal relationship in this sacred, petitioning manner; that Eliezer liberated himself from the cocoon of the curse and took flight on the wings of goodness and blessedness.

~adapted from Divrei Sofrim 34
Bais Yaakov ahl haTorah v’Hamoadim Chayei Sara D”H v’hayah
Kol Eliyahu Chayei Sara 22
Chidushei HaRI”M Chayei Sara D”H b’Inyan

One comment on “When Opposites Attract

  1. Regarding your pshat that through Eliezer davening/requesting he was yatza miklal aruru – I think it works well with the nature of his “arur” which was to be “eved avadim” – the curse of Canaan was to have a slave personality and lack of independence i.e. lack of yegiah kapayim.

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