Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chayei Sarah - Family Matters

Parshat Chayei Sarah is often cited as the Shiddach Parsha (matchmaking Torah chapter). It is the first time we find a parent searching for the perfect match for his child. It also shows us many of the qualities that any perspective chattan or kallah should look for in his spouse. In addition to all the desirable qualities we should search for in a perspective spouse, we must also look for the same qualities in his/her family.
While a young person may declare, "I'm not marrying his/her family,"…umm….yes you are.
In this week's parsha Avraham sends his trusted servant Eliezer to find a shiddach for son Yitzchak. He doesn't want a girl from the neighborhood. They are idol worshippers and a cursed nation. Instead he sends Eliezer back to Charan to get a bride from his old hometown.
But the folks in Charan are idol worshippers too.
Still, there are two positive aspects about getting a bride in Charan. Since Avraham is from Charan and inside his soul is all goodness, all chesed, all caring for others, somewhere in the souls of even the idol worshippers who are his extended family, there must be these traits. Avraham discovered G-d in the world, but his personality traits came from somewhere- his father, his mother, perhaps one if his grandparents. He could not hsve been the last in his family to possess these characteristics. Perhaps there was yet another. Eliezer was to dig through the sand of Charan to find the diamond hidden there - the one who possessed those Avrahamic traits.
And so with G-d's help Eliezer does indeed uncover the hidden gem - Rivka - right by a well of water - the water of mayim chaim - the living waters of Hashem's Torah.
Further, while a person surely can be different from his/her family, there are many traits that can pop up any time in life - an expression, an outlook – that's straight out of his/her family. Our parents' thoughts, mannerisms, genes are in all of us - for the good or bad and whether we like it or not. In addition whether we believe it or not, we are influenced by our family a great degree. If our family is peopled with tzaddikim, wholy holy, that enriches our spiritual life and spiritual outlook. If our family is peopled with businessmen, that enriches our life in other ways. 
However if, G-d forbid, our family is made up of idol worshippers and cheats, even if we are today totally different from them, their negative lifestyle can influence at different points throughout our lives.
Avraham, Prince of G-d and Lover of Man, sought a daughter-in-law for his "perfect" son that would bring more of the qualities of chesed and worthiness to the family. He sought a daughter-in-law who could interact with the world and continue the path that he himself, Avraham walked. He needed someone who could help and encourage Yitzchak to keep "the family business" of spreading awareness of G-d going. It was especially important to find a wife for Yitzchak that could do that, since Avraham understood that as a result of the Akeida, Yitzchak had risen somewhat to level of un-worldliness or above-worldliness, and could easily have become totally separated from real life and people.
But just as much as Avraham needed those qualities, he had to make sure that girl would be physically separated from her family so that any negative influences would not be constantly near her.
So, even though Avraham's family in Charan were idol worshippers and even though perhaps there was a wonderful girl (like Eliezer's own daughter) nearby in Canaan, Avraham needed a girl that would have the right ingredients for co-president of the Avrahamic Enterprise - chesed and distance. He needed her to totally absorb the goodness, holiness and positive traits of the Avrahamic family without her mother saying, "Yes, he's smart, but why doesn't he go out and hunt and earn a living for you." or "How can you stand that family full of freiers?"
A person does marry his spouse's family. So s/he'd better be sure that his/her potential spouse's family has the good traits that bring blessing. An added benefit, s/he can even live near the in-laws and have a fabulous warm relationship always.
In the time of Avraham, the negatives could be distanced by distance. But in a world of cellphones, email and Skype no distance is distant. Better to choose a wonderful partner with a wonderful family.

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