Raboyseyee and Ladies,
Lies of the Matchmaker
The Ois and Eishes Chayil returned just last night from a trip to Los Angeles, where they were in attendance at the aufruf and wedding of Dr. Ari Berg who married Olivia Levkowitz, she the very accomplished and beautiful daughter Elayne and Howard Levkowitz. And what a weekend it was. Mazel tov again to Olivia and Ari, to our friends of decades Naomi and Howard Berg, and to their extended family. As well, another shout-out mazel tov to Elayne and Howard Levkowitz and to their entire family. The entire weekend was amazing. The heylige Ois -having acted as the shadchan to Ari’s parents- wishes Olivia and Ari many decades of blissful marriage.
Speaking of weddings, shiduchim and shadchonim (matchmakers), mistama you no longer recall, or never knew -because you weren’t paying attention in yeshiva- but it’s in this week’s parsha of Chaya Soro- where the shadchan is introduced and his (or her) critical role lauded. So critical is his role that the RBSO dedicates most of the parsha to the efforts of the shadchan Eliezer -who was charged with having to find a suitable bride for Yitzchok – he, now at least 37 years old (making Ari Berg look like a spring chicken). From his mission we learn a very important lesson: the shadchan has license -perhaps Toirah sanctioned- to exaggerate and even lie when necessary, in order to accomplish the stated goal, closing the deal. Mamish? Would the heylige Toirah ever sanction such behavior? Even the slightest exaggeration? What’s pshat. We shall cover that topic below but let us begin here.
It’s Shabbis Parshas Chaya Soro, a shabbis where thousands of men leave their children and the neshay chayil (wives) to fly over to Chevroin, Israel for a weekend of male bonding (mamish). There, they sleep 25 to an apartment -as many to a bed- and shack up with many old school friends they haven’t shared a bed with since Yeshiva high school, if you chap. As an aside, the Ois was more than pleased this past shabbis at the Young Israel of Century City when he ran into an old high-school classmate he has not seen in kimat four decades. Nice to see you Moishe Shainberg. It’s a shabbis where people from all over the world connect, do business deals, bond, sing and dance as they commemorate the yurtzeit of Soro Emaynu.
Our parsha has three storylines along; here they are: 1- Soro’s passing and Avrohom’s trials and tribulations in trying to find an adequate burial place. 2- Avrohom’s sharp focus in trying to find a suitable kallah for his favorite son Yitzchok and 3- Avrohom’s new life and family. Chaya Soro is, as you should recall from your youth, the parsha that many view as the ultimate source for utilizing the services of a shadchan (matchmaker); we will delve into Eliezer’s role shortly, ober let’s begin here.
With Soro’s passing, Avrohom is now in the real estate market; he seeks to find a suitable burial place for his beloved. And like many novices, we shall learn that his negotiating skills needed some sharpening. As the parsha opens, Ephroin the Chitti, the landowner, offers Avrohom the land he desires. For how much? For free! Yes, Ephroin the Chitti insists that Avrohom take the land and cave for free. What does Avrohom do? He declines the offer -several times- and insists on paying. After several rounds of very tense negotiations, Avrohom prevails, and, as the heylige Toirah tells us, he paid full price: read RETAIL, loi olaynu! Was Avrohom mamish a real Jew? Is this the basis for those suggesting that Avrohom was the first Ivri, but not necessarily the first Jew? Logical? Ver veyst!
What’s pshat here? Is saying no to a freebie and insisting on full payment the Jewish way? Which frum Yid would say no to free, and continue handeling (negotiate against himself) until he paid full price? Is this the Avrohom that we are to emulate? Efsher (perhaps) we can posit an answer and suggest that this event happened before Matan-Toirah (Revelation) and therefore Avrohom didn’t yet chap (grasp) that handeling (negotiating) is a mitzvas ah-say (positive commandment) as we discussed several weeks back. Farshtaytzich (logic dictates) that this would also answer how he was able to serve meat and milk together to the visiting angles (last week’s parsha); note how the heylige Ois, ties up all loose ends; mamish gishmak. Not so poshit however (not so fast you weisenheimer) as others state that avada Avrohom kept the whole Toirah kula (the entire kit and caboodle), before the big event on the small mountain. How? Freig nisht (don’t ask); I don’t know and neither does anyone else.
The bottom line: This story does not have a happy ending. Ultimately, after begging Ephroin to take his money, the Goy agreed. Avrohom did in fact pay full price for Chevroin and as we all know only too well, there has not been a day’s peace ever since. Had Avrohom accepted the land as a gift, would things be better? Ver veyst?
Veyter. Avrohom buries his eishes chayil, his beloved wife that he twice unsuccessfully tried to get rid of. At 127, Soro, we are taught, passed of natural causes. Did she? Can you just imagine the shrek (not the movie)? I meant the shock of hearing that after waiting 90 years for a son, your husband was going to kill and grill him?! Do you really believe that she just said OK, do not forget the barbeque sauce. Or was she frightened to death -mamish- that Avrohom would try to get rid of her one more time, perhaps to Ephroin the Chittie this time? Ver veyst? Bottom line: Soro had enough of Avrohom’s shenanigans and checked out. Says Rashi azoy: her neshomo mamish flew out of her body as a result of hearing about the Akaydo; wouldn’t yours?
Like any good husband would (should) Avrohom was nebech tzebrochen (broken up) with Soro’s passing but as the heylige Toirah points out, he wasn’t quite that upset, or maybe not upset enough. He cried but seemingly not enough, as the word for crying is spelled with a small kaf indicating that perhaps he wasn’t as saddened as he could have or should have been. Was he faking? Is the heylige Toirah implying that he could have, or should have been more distraught? Nu, what can you do? He was, after all, just a man- and likely thinking ahead, if you chap, about a new life, wife and maybe even others in addition. Others? Avrohom is now a young 140-year-old and mistama a shtikel lonely. What to do? And how distraught could he have been when just after her passing and the mourning period, Avrohom was already on the move and he quickly married Ketura who turned out to be quite the fertile myrtle and bore him six children? Shoin, Zeyda Avrohom was suddenly the tata to six more goyim, yikes!! Quite impressive given his slow start and advanced age but hey, he’s Avrohom Ovenu and the RBSO loved him. Let us not forget that he’s aced every test, all 10 of them.
As you can only imagine, not all the medroshim were happy to hear that Avrohom would marry a woman with a name like Ketura and avada you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s a machloikes among many, as to who this mysterious Ketura really is. Was she, or was she not Ketura as the heylige Toirah specifically tells us? Or, was she someone else altogether? Given that these events took place before 9/11, not everyone was required to carry a valid driver’s license or passport. The bottom line: we don’t know and when we don’t know for certain -even when we think we do- the medroshim posited different opinions. Who was she? Let’s see.
According to poshit p’shat (basic reading of the text), it would appear that Ketura was Avrohom’s third wife. Avada you recall that he married Soro Emaynu, then with Soro’s blessings (at the time), also came upon (and married) Hogor and now, Ketura; Shoin, that makes three. And taka, so say the Rashbam, Ibn-Ezra, the Radak and the RambaN. Case closed? Not at all!
Who is Ketura? The simplest approach is that she was a local – a shiksa Canaanite woman. Avrohom married a shiksa? 35 plus years ago, my father OBM, was upset that I dated girls whose parents were very Jewish -even religious- but Americans and not heimish. Avada some Medroshim could not let this slide by. Says the Yalkut Shimoni (Iyov – 903): ”Avrohom married three women: Sarah, the daughter of Shem; Ketura, the daughter of Japheth; Hagar, the daughter of Ham”. And in fact he married them in the order in which the “fathers” appear in the Bible (6:9) – first the daughter of Shem, then the daughter of Ham, and finally the daughter of Japheth. Towards the end of his life, post-Soro, Avrohom fulfills the last piece of the RBSO’s special brocho – through him (Avrohom) the world is blessed and populated. Childless for 99 years, Avrohom becomes the father of a multitude of nations.
To bolster this point of view, says the heylige Toirah about Avrohom, azoy: VA’YIOSEF (he added) and VA’YIKACH (he took) a wife, and her name was Ketura. And take her he did -seemingly many times- if you chap, as she bore him Zimran and Yokshan and Medan and Midian and Yishbak and Shuach. Immediately thereafter, meaning after fathering the six goyim, we learn that Avrohom bequeathed all his possessions to his favorite son Yitzchok. Efsher he had guilt feelings about binding him like a sheep and trying to slaughter him, ver veyst? Jewish guilt has no bounds and never expires. In any event, it’s clear that the kinderlach Avrohom fathered from his new eishes chayil got nothing. Well, almost nothing. The emes is that he gave them each a few parting gifts, much like the losers on Jeopardy. The posik tells us V’LIVNEI HA’PILAGSHM (and for the children of the concubines), Avrohom gave gifts, and then sent them off away from Yitzchok his son while he was still alive, eastward to the land of the East (Bereishis 25:1-6).
Says Reb. Avrohom ben HaRambam (the son of the RambaM) that Avrohom fathered all these children when he was well over 140 years old. And when these kids grew up, he sent them all away eastward, back in the direction of his birthplace. From there they become successful traders in spices, gold, and precious stones (Yeshaya 60:6; Yechezkel 27:15, 20, 22).
Says the Medrish (Bereishis Rabbah 61:4) that Ketura was not his third wife but the second coming of his second wife. How lucky was he, if you chap? In other words: he married her, then chased her away but with his jealous nagging wife Soro now gone, Avrohom went back and married the shiksa one more time. Gishmak! Of course, she had no issues giving birth; seemingly the shiksa girlfriends or pilagshim never do. How that works, ver veyst?
Says Reb Yehudah: “This is Hogor.” Said Reb Nechemiah to him: But it says “And he continued” [suggesting an additional wife]! Said he to him, “[VA’YIOSEF means] by Divine inspiration he married her. Said he to him, “But it says, and her name was Ketura!” Their arguments continued, each holding strong to his position. Rav Yehudah argues tenaciously that Hagar, newly named, returned to Avrohom after the death of Soro. Says Rashi empathically that Ketura was Hogor. Ay… (but) what about all the cogent and logical arguments put forth by Reb Nechemia? And what’s the bottom line with these two going back and forth? Ver veyst?
Moreover, asks the Gur Aryeh azoy: the text tells us that Avrohom married Ketura but we get no background on her. Where was her shidduch resume? Who were her parents? Where was she from? Would Avrohom marry just anyone and especially after setting the bar so very high in this week’s parsha when he instructs Eliezer to find a suitable wife for his son Yitzchok? What’s pshat here? Much more on that below; keep reading. Therefore, he concludes that Ketura is not introduced because she previously was: she’s Hogor! Ginig shoin (enough already); lz up (leave it alone please)!
Ober, why would Avrohom remarry the wife he once chased out of the house? Says the Zoihar, as well as the Chizkuni, Kli Yakar and others azoy: Hogor, was chapped in by one of the early balas tshuva movements for wayward shiksa concubines thrown out by the boyfriend’s/husband’s wife, but got herself back on the right path. She gave herself a shtikel name change, cleaned up her on-line reputation (at www.yourinternetdefender.com) and shoin: she was good to go, and come. Avada they didn’t mention Google but you chap, yes? Avrohom saw her in a new light and remarried her. Givaldig!
What do we learn here? Seemingly, once he had that shiksa experience it was zicher (of course) hard for Avrohom to stay focused on Soro, despite her beauty – even at her advance age. One medrish suggests that she, Hogor, had taken on the name Ketura because she was closed to other traffic (men) ever since she had experienced Avrohom. And now you know. Di emes is the gantza sugya is shver tzu farsthein (the entire subject is hard to understand) but azoy shteyt (this is what’s stated) in the Toirah and medroshim; who is the Oi sto argue? The bottom line: It’s avada klur (clear) why Avrohom would think about and miss the shiksa Hogor, but farkert? Why would she come back?
Ober, says the Radak (R. David Kimchi) that Avrohom taka married Ketura, as he had married Hogor earlier, as a full-fledged wife. However, the children of the concubines mentioned here at the end of our parsha, refer to other unnamed children from other unnamed women Avrohom took as concubines. Well, blow me down! Are we talking about the same Avrohom Ovenu? We must look at him with a whole new set of eyes and admiration; a man mamish! If you’re dizzy and wondering how many kinderlach Avrohom had in total, you’re not alone. In fact, some say he also had a daughter and her name was Bakol. And how do we know this? Says the heylige Toirah that Avrohom got old and the RBSO blessed him Bakol (meaning everything) and from this text, several medroshim concluded that Bakol was his daughter. Shoin! What happened to her? Seemingly she died -nebech- much earlier. Avrohom didn’t feel the pain for this lost daughter so much until he lost Sarah as well.
Let’s chazir: exactly how many wives he had, we don’t know for sure. Nor do we know with certitude how many kids and concubines he had. What we do know is that he seemingly enjoyed the last 35 years of his life, and why not? Er hut a sach mitgimacht (he was tested plenty, he was a survivor). He was, as mentioned earlier, Avrohom Ovenu; need we say more?
Shoin, earlier the Ois mentioned that our parsha may be the source of the license given to shadchonim to exaggerate -and lie- when trying to make a shidduch (match). What’s pshat, and what is the heylige Ois referring to? Let us find out. A bachelor until 40, Yitzchok finally meets his bashert after his father gets involved in the shidduch process. Avrohom sends Eliezer -his house boy- to find Yitzchok a wife; he will deliver! Aside from her other qualities (let’s not forget that she may have been but three years old at the time), the heylige Toirah tells us that Rivka was also quite beautiful. So far so good but after a careful reading of the text, it is clearly obvious that Eliezer did not state the whole truth as instructed by Avrohom. In fact, to help make the shidduch, he added to the instructions and seemingly lied to the family. One of the most -efsher the most- colorful and elaborate twice-told myseh (tale) in the entire Toirah, is the story of the finding a mate for Yitzchok by Eliezer whom Avrohom has commissioned. Avrohom sent Eliezer back to Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son. We read every detail of the instructions, and later we heard the details again from the shadchan’s point of view once he sat down with the potential bride’s family.
Ober, when reading the words closely, there is a major discrepancy between the instructions given to Eliezer and the way Eliezer repeated them in his version of the story. Avrohom had instructed Eliezer to go to ארצי ומולדתי, -“my land, my native land.” Ober, when Eliezer (as an aside, not shouted out by name in the entire parsha or Toirah), retold the story, he tells the family that Avrohom had told him to go אל בית אבי ולמשפחתי, to “my father’s house, to my family.” Did Avrohom mention his own family? Not! did Avrohom instruct Eliezer to find a girl from the family? The bottom line: Eliezer made that part up as Avrohom was quite content for Eliezer to find any heimish girl from his country. He never specified “a girl from my father’s house or family.” Let’s read the relevant pisukim innveynig. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 24:3-4 ), azoy: [Y]ou shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell, but shall go to my land, my native land and get a wife for my son Yitzchok.”
בראשית כד:ג …לֹֽא־תִקַּ֤ח אִשָּׁה֙ לִבְנִ֔י מִבְּנוֹת֙ הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י יוֹשֵׁ֥ב בְּקִרְבּֽוֹ:
כד:ד כִּ֧י אֶל־אַרְצִ֛י וְאֶל־מוֹלַדְתִּ֖י תֵּלֵ֑ךְ וְלָקַחְתָּ֥ אִשָּׁ֖ה לִבְנִ֥י לְיִצְחָֽק:
Ober, when Eliezer sat with Rivka’s family, he lied when he repeated his mandate. Let’s read pisukim 37 and 38 where Eliezer changed the words. You shall not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I dwell; unless you go to my father’s house, to my family, and get a wife for my son.’
כד:לז …לֹא־תִקַּ֤ח אִשָּׁה֙ לִבְנִ֔י מִבְּנוֹת֙ הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י יֹשֵׁ֥ב בְּאַרְצֽוֹ:
כד:לח אִם־לֹ֧א אֶל־בֵּית־אָבִ֛י תֵּלֵ֖ךְ וְאֶל־מִשְׁפַּחְתִּ֑י וְלָקַחְתָּ֥ אִשָּׁ֖ה לִבְנִֽי:
Eliezer added this detail to his charge: He mamish lied to them by telling them that Avrohom specifically instructed that he find a girl from his parent’s family and home. Why did Eliezer add and change the facts? Says the Shadal that the servant consciously adjusted the facts to make his proposed shidduch more persuasive. He added color. Well, blow me down!
וכאן שינה אליעזר, ואף על פי שאברהם התיר לו לקחת מכל בנות העיר, אמר להם שרצונו שלא יקח רק ממשפחתו, כדי שיחשבו שהיה אברהם חפץ בקרבתם (דון יצחק
And says the Abarbenel azoy: Eliezer changed the storyline. He misrepresented the instructions that he had been given. Even though Avrohom had told him to take a bride from anyone in that town, he told [the family] that Avrohom wanted a bride [specifically] from his own family, so that they would think that Avrohom thought highly of them.
Ober why taka didn’t Avrohom insist that Eliezer find a nice girl from his own family? Was there a defect in the family that Avrohom didn’t want exposed? Seemingly, Avrohom was painfully aware that his own family was hardly any more worthy than anyone else from that town. Mamish a realist. Is that why he told Eliezer that he could take a girl from his family or anyone else in the town? Es ken zeyn (could be). And taka so says the medrish:
והנה אברהם היה יודע כי בני משפחתו אינם כשרים הרבה יותר משאר אנשי העיר, לפיכך אמר לאליעזר שיקח מבית אביו או מבנות המקום ההוא. אך אליעזר שראה שנתקיים נחש שלו והאמין כי אותה הוכיח ה’, השתדל שייתנוה בנפש חפצה ובשמחה, כי ישישו בשמעם שאין אברהם חפץ אלא בהם.
The final bottom lines: it does epes appear that shadchonim have in the past, will continue in the future, to color, exaggerate, even lie to help a shiduch come about. As to the shidduch between Olivia and Ari this past Sunday – assisted by Rabbi Dovid Mahler of Los Angeles- the Ois can state with a strong degree of certitude that none of this was needed. Both Ari and Olivia and their respective families are great! Mazel tov.
A Gittin Shabbis!
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv