Abraham, Isaac, Unto, Wife, Thou, Eliezer
The death of Sarah dealt Abraham a blow from which he did not recover. So long as she was alive, he felt himself young and vigorous, but after she had passed away, old age suddenly overtook him. It was he himself who made the plea that age be betrayed by suitable signs and tokens. Before the time of Abraham an old man was not distinguishable externally from a young man, and as Isaac was the image of his father, it happened frequently that father and son were mistaken for each other, and a request meant for the one was preferred to the other. Abraham prayed therefore that old age might have marks to distinguish it from youth, and God granted his petition, and since the time of Abraham the appearance of men changes in old age. This is one of the seven great wonders that have occurred in the course of history.
The blessing of God did not forsake Abraham in old age, either. That it might not be said it had been granted to him only for the sake of Sarah, God prospered him after her death, too. Hagar bore him a daughter, and Ishmael repented of his evil ways and subordinated himself to Isaac. And as Abraham enjoyed undisturbed happiness in his family, so also outside, in the world. The kings of the east and the west eagerly besieged the door of his house in order to derive benefit from his wisdom. From his neck a precious stone was suspended, which possessed the power of healing the sick who looked upon it. On the death of Abraham, God attached it to the wheel of the sun. The greatest blessing enjoyed by him, and by none beside except his son Isaac and Jacob the son of Isaac, was that the evil inclination had no power over him, so that in this life he had a foretaste of the future world.
But all these Divine blessings showered upon Abraham were not undeserved. He was clean of hand, and pure of heart, one that did not lift up his soul unto vanity.
He fulfilled all the commands that were revealed later, even the Rabbinical injunctions, as, for instance, the one relating to the limits of a Sabbath day's journey, wherefor his reward was that God disclosed to him the new teachings which He expounded daily in the heavenly academy.
But one thing lacked to complete the happiness of Abraham, the marriage of Isaac. He therefore called his old servant Eliezer unto himself. Eliezer resembled his master not only externally, in his appearance, but also spiritually. Like Abraham he possessed full power over the evil inclination, and like the master, the servant was an adept in the law. Abraham spake the following words to Eliezer: "I am stricken in age, and I know not the day of my death. Therefore prepare thyself, and go unto my country, and to my kindred, and fetch hither a wife for my son." Thus he spake by reason of the resolution he had taken immediately after the sacrifice of Isaac on Moriah, for he had there said within himself, that if the sacrifice had been executed, Isaac would have gone hence childless. He was even ready to choose a wife for his son from among the daughters of his three friends, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, because he knew them to be pious, and he did not attach much importance to aristocratic stock. Then spake God to him, and said: "Concern thyself not about a wife for Isaac. One has already been provided for him," and it was made known to Abraham that Milcah, the wife of his brother Nahor, childless until the birth of Isaac, had then been remembered by God and made fruitful. She bore Bethuel, and he in turn, at the time of Isaac's sacrifice, begot the daughter destined to be the wife of Isaac.
Mindful of the proverb, "Even if the wheat of thine own place be darnel, use it for seed," Abraham determined to take a wife for Isaac from his own family. He argued that as any wife he chose would have to become a proselyte, it would be best to use his own stock, which had the first claim upon him.
Eliezer now said to his master: "Peradventure no woman will be willing to follow me unto this land. May I then marry my own daughter to Isaac?" "No," replied Abraham, "thou art of the accursed race, and my son is of the blessed race, and curse and blessing cannot be united. But beware thou that thou bring not my son again unto the land from whence I came, for if thou broughtest him thither again, it were as though thou tookest him to hell. God who sets the heavens in motion, He will set this matter right, too, and He that took me from my father's house, and that spake unto me, and that swore unto me in Haran, and at the covenant of the pieces, that He would give this land unto my seed, He shall send His excellent angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence." Eliezer then swore to his master concerning the matter, and Abraham made him take the oath by the sign of the covenant.
|Written By Louis Ginzberg|
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