Finding the Right One
The main theme of this week’s parsha is women. Chayei Sara, the Life of Sara, begins with the narration of Sara’s passing and Avraham’s purchase of the Machpela Cave in Hebron as a burial place for her. With the departure of the first of the foremothers, there is a “changing of the guard” as we start to focus on the next generation after Avraham and Sara. The only problem is that Avraham’s successor and son, Isaac is still single and he needs to find a wife to be able to carry on the promises that God will make Avraham a great nation. As this was well before online dating, tradition reigned and parents were involved in the matchmaking of their children.
At issue however was that Avraham was well on in years and could not take care of this important task himself. Instead he appoints his trusted servant and right-hand man, Eliezer as his agent for this crucial mission. Avraham gives him clear instructions to go back to his home town to find a suitable young woman for Isaac.
So off goes Eliezer to a completely strange area with no GPS to guide him but with the hand of God to show him the way. Indeed, recognizing the difficulty of his job, he asks God to give him a sign to point him in the right direction and to highlight who would be a suitable wife for Isaac.
When he gets to Avraham’s home town, he prays: “Here I stand by the water-spring, and the daughters of the people of the city are coming out to draw water. Let it come about that the young woman to whom I ask, ‘Tip your pitcher so that I can have a drink’ and who replies, ‘Drink, and I will also give water to your camels,’ (then I will know that) she will be the one whom You have designated for Your servant, for Isaac.”
And lo and behold, before he even finishes his prayer, Rebecca shows up with a jug of water on her shoulder, and when asked to give Eliezer a drink, does so and then also offers to bring water for his camels as well – just as he prayed for and totally on script.
Now I am sure that there are many singles out there that would wish it to be so easy to find the right one. But given that not everyone is on the level of Eliezer, working for an Avraham and would receive instant answers to their prayers, there are still many valuable lessons to be learnt from this event in one’s quest to find their beshert, their match. (As for you marrieds – we all know someone searching for their significant other. Pass on the ideas or email this to them.)
Here are four important lessons that this event can teach us about the dating scene:
1. Check Out a Person’s Background. Avraham was all too familiar with the folks surrounding him and he was not impressed. This is very interesting inasmuch as he just got through asking God to spare Sodom and Gemorrah with the possibility that the place could rehab itself if there were enough righteous people. Alas, seeing there were not, it told Abraham what kind of values dominated the area and forced him to conclude that he had to go elsewhere, to his home town, to find an appropriate wife for his son.
The effect that a community has on all of us is expressed by Maimonides who states, “A person is drawn after their environment.” We cannot escape it – to a large degree we are all a product of our family, our community, our city and our country. It is important to check out a person’s origins to get a better context of who they are what makes them tick. Of course a person can rise above those influences but one should always pay attention to the dominant traits of a locale to ensure that the intended has left those traits behind if they are negative ones, or adopted them if they are positive.
2. Timing is Everything. Isaac was not so young when Avraham took this initiative for him. He was 37 and just had gotten off a sacrificial alter… literally. Avraham’s efforts for his son only began in earnest after the episode at the end of last week’s Torah portion, the Akeidah where Avraham was told to sacrifice his son and was prevented from doing so at the last minute. Needless to say it was a life-changing event for everyone involved and it made Avraham come to the stark realization that had God not stopped him he would be bereft of children and progeny. He could not delay any longer in his efforts to find a wife for his son.
We don’t necessarily have these dramatic events to knock some sense of urgency into us, but too often singles just dilly-dally along in life when it comes to finding the right one. “Time is a wastin’ away and it doesn’t wait for nobody to find what they’re after” Gordon Lightfoot once sang. Too many people just passively date and do not actively seek a life partner, and before they know it the right person could have come and gone out of their lives. Or they might find someone who seems right, but stick with them forever in a state of limbo of neither being totally single nor married; with nobody pulling the trigger to get to that next stage in life. We are not young forever, so when you feel the time is right to get married or if you have met the right person, get a move on.
Which leads me to the next point about what to look for when dating.
3. See the Person For Who They Really Are. When Eliezer prayed, he wasn’t looking for an arbitrary sign from God but one that would tell him something invaluable about Rebecca’s character and qualities. Her response to his request for water displayed not only her trait of kindness, but that she was sensitive to the needs of his animals as well. She took the initiative to alleviate their thirst even though this was not asked of her.
Too often singles spend so much time and effort focusing on inane issues having no bearing on a person’s true character. Their online profiles tell of the types of food they like, the TV they watch or the music they listen to. And of course they like to take the proverbial long walks along the beach. As if any of these details have any bearing on whether or not you can build a meaningful and enjoyable life and future with this person.
When it comes to dating and seeking a beshert, learn to focus on the important issues and crucial qualities of the other. And the only way to do that is by seeing them in real-life situations. Coffee at Starbucks or going to a movie (if the theatres ever open up again) are very limited real-life situations. Rather, take him to your sister who has the runny-nose toddler, plunk the kid on his lap and see how he reacts. Is it, “Ewww, this kid is messing up my Hugo Boss pants!” or, “Cute kid. Got a tissue for him? There we go…” as he wipes the snot from him? You want to see him or her in real-life situations not fake ones because guess what? Most of marriage is real life and not fake Hollywood movie nonsense.
4. And Finally – Pray. Ask the Almighty to bring you the right person. But more importantly, that when He does, that He gives you the insight and awareness to recognize it.
PS – Call me when you need a rabbi for the chuppah.
You sit there in your heartache
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways…
Watch it now, here he comes
He doesn’t look a thing like ‘Isaac’
But he talks like a gentleman
Like you imagined
When you were young