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A Disciple or a Mimic?

November 22, 2011 – 10:46 amOne Comment

At a recent trade show in Hong Kong, a Steve Jobs shrine was constructed, to display the frames. Image: nvisioncenters

By Rabbi Meir Rabi

I read that there is a very, very long wait to get Steve Jobs look-alike spectacle frames. I wonder what sort of a thrill, they who wait so patiently, actually experience when they first see the world through those look alike frames. Is that how Steve saw the world?

Let that simmer for a while whilst we speculate about Avraham requesting his servant, his loyal trusted servant, Eliezer, to embark on a mission upon which the future of the Jews and the world depended – finding the proper wife for Yitzchak. Eliezer is a remarkable man, Avraham trusts him with his fortune. He is Avraham’s secretary of state and prime minister-president and chief of the military – all rolled into one supreme coherent expert. He is the Rosh Yeshivah of Avraham Avinu’s academy. And he is the one who is trusted and entrusted with the task of overseeing and guaranteeing the continuity of Avraham and Sara’s precious gift to this world, the mission of ensuring that G-d’s promise will be accomplished in the best possible way.

So why does Avraham not trust him?

Why does Avraham insist that he take an oath? Why must Eliezer promise that Yizchak’s wife will not be from the daughters of Canaan?

There was someone else who Avraham would not trust. A great man. A man who according to the Tanna DeVei Eliyahu preached for many years that humanity should recognise the one and only G-d. Yet Avraham would not make an alliance with him to promote his holy work.

The Gemara explains that when MalkiTzeddek came to pay homage to Avraham following Avraham’s great military victory and success in redeeming Lot, MalkiTzeddek made a serious blunder. MalkiTzeddek praised both HaShem and also Avraham, but he praised Avraham before he praised HaShem.
Avraham could not form an alliance with a person carrying such a defect.

Avraham demands the oath for a small detail; ensuring that Yitzchak will not be wed to a woman from the daughters of Canaan. Avraham absolutely trusts Eliezer to find the woman with the correct life outlook and attitude to build the future Nation of G-d, this requires no oath but Avraham still has lingering doubts that Eliezer may look for this woman amongst the Canaanite tribes.

The reason for Avraham’s doubts are disclosed when Eliezer seeks clarification regarding Yitzchak possibly moving to live at the wife’s location.

Allow me to digress for a moment and ask: did Avraham actually say that the wife sought for Yitzchak, should come to Yitzchak? No, he did not. So what prompted Eliezer to ask about such an eventuality? What was going on in Eliezer’s mind that triggered this line of thought?

It must be that while he innately understood that Avraham would have been displeased, Eliezer though failed to appreciate just how opposed Avraham was to such an outcome. And this was the need for Eliezer to be bound with an oath. This was the subtle flaw in Eliezer that was invisible to all but Avraham.

Avraham after rejecting that option, goes into a lengthy declaration about the G-d of the heavens having led him from his birth-place; a most perplexing expectoration and an enigma at that point of the narrative.

Rashi makes one observation regarding this – why does Avraham now refer exclusively to G-d of the heavens when only a moment ago when binding Eliezer to an oath he referred to G-d of the heavens and the earth?

Avraham is alluding to the fault that divides him and Eliezer, his trusted and loyal disciple. Today, Avraham explains, G-d is recognised as both G-d of the heaves and the earth but it was not always like that. “When I was living back home G-d was unknown on this earth. In spite of my best efforts, the place where I lived was unreceptive to the truth of G-d. But wherever I went after I was instructed to leave my birthplace, G-d also became the G-d of the earth because I made G-d popular amongst the people.”

This was Avraham’s life mission and Eliezer, for all his wisdom and for all his close following of Avraham’s every move, did not grasp the core and significance of Avraham’s life ambitions. He still failed to grasp that G-d’s plans for Avraham and his children could not possibly be pursued where Eliezer had proposed, in a land and amongst people who are hostile to G-d being recognised as G-d of the earth.

I suspect this rasps against today’s (in some quarters) general guidance and inclination, to seek and gain rabbinic or Torah approval in all non-Halachic matters. Indeed we could probably think of a couple of justifications and even advantages to be gained by Yitzchak moving back to his father’s birthplace. However, the true Talmid is not the one who has simply documented the customs, habits and styles of his master, and follows them blindly or with limited analysis. The true Talmid is he who has internalised the essence of the master. More than that, the master’s moment of greatest fulfilment is when his student, after having gained this clarity, proceeds upon his own path and no longer needs to crudely mimic his master but becomes his own master in serving HaShem.

Wearing those long awaited spectacle frames is but a crude mimicry of Steve. It may even be an impediment to the wearers, preventing them from gaining their own look and view on life.

This article was originally published on  kosherveyosher.com

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