SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, November 7, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Torah in Parashat Chayei-Sara tells of Avraham’s instructions to his servant to journey to Avraham’s homeland and find a spouse for his son, Yitzchak, from among his relatives.  Avraham said to his servant that he must go “to my land, to my homeland…and you shall bring a woman for my son, for Yitzchak” (24:4).
            The Midrash Ha-gadol, commenting on the phrase, “li-vni le-Yitzchak” – “for my son, for Yitzchak” – explains that Avraham was emphasizing to his servant, “for my son – and not for me; for Yitzchak – and not for Yishmael.”  According to the Midrash’s reading of the verse, Avraham impressed upon his servant that he was assigning him just one mission – to find a wife for Yitzchak.  He was not being sent to Avraham’s homeland to find a wife for Avraham – whose wife recently died – or for Avraham’s older son, Yishmael.
            What might be the meaning of this Midrashic reading of the verse?  Why would the Midrash depict Avraham as clarifying to his servant that he was being sent to find a mate only for Yitzchak, and not for Avraham or Yishmael?
            Perhaps, the Midrash seeks to convey a simple lesson about remaining focused and avoiding distraction.  Sometimes, when we have a certain task to complete, we are prone to diverting our attention away from that task towards other valuable pursuits.  Just as the Midrash describes Avraham’s concern that his servant might look for a wife for Avraham or Yishmael instead of a wife for Yitzchak, we, too, occasionally lose sight of the most pressing or immediate task at hand, and allow our focus to shift onto other matters.  The Midrash perhaps urges us to remain focused and determined to complete our primary, basic obligations before seeking to expand and look beyond for other worthwhile challenges to undertake.  Just as the servant was reminded to focus his attention on Yitzchak, so are we to try to remain focused on our immediate responsibilities at any given time, before seeking additional endeavors to take upon ourselves.