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It was last year in the week of Parshas Chayei Sarah that my older brother, Binyamin, got married to Sarah Miriam Kaplan. Both had been single for many years and never married. They planned for a small wedding, with more friends coming for dancing and a buffet at the end. To their surprise, when they walked down the aisle, every seat was taken, every inch of standing space was filled, and the side rooms and halls were packed! Friends and coworkers were just so elated for them that they had to be there to witness that special ceremony. Everyone who had met them together or attended the wedding had the same reaction. “They are so perfect for each other. How come no one set them up earlier?!”
Parshas Chayei Sarah is known as the parsha of shidduchim, as Avraham sends his trusted servant Eliezer on a mission to find a suitable shidduch (match) for Yitzchak. In the yeshiva Mir Yerushalayim, Rav Eliyahu Boruch Finkel, zt”l, gave his famous yearly shidduchim shiur on Parshas Chayei Sarah, presenting many fundamental concepts on how to find a match and what qualities to look for.
Rav Hirsch points out the word mikreh—chance—is used in other places in the Torah with a different meaning. In commanding cities of refuge be set up for an accidental murderer, the Torah says, “V’hikreisem lachem arim,” which Rashi translates as “designate cities for yourselves.” Similarly, Yitzchak asks Yaakov, who was impersonating Eisav to obtain Eisav’s bracha, “How did you catch an animal so quickly?” to which Yaakov replied, “Hashem hakreh lefanai, Hashem placed it before me.”
What’s the connection between the two seemingly opposite meanings of mikreh—chance and designate? Further, Rav Hirsch explains that similar-sounding Hebrew words that have different spellings are related in meaning. The root word karah, whose last letter is heh (used in the word mikreh, meaning chance or designate), and the root word kara with an aleph at the end (used in the word mikreh meaning call) are related. When calling someone, you attract their attention and cause them to look toward your direction. A mikreh (chance) occurrence is really a case of something unexpected happening that calls our attention. When a “chance” occurrence happens, it should turn our focus to the One Who caused the chance occurrence—Hashem. The two meanings of the word mikreh with a heh—chance and designate—are really one and the same, as all chance occurrences originate from Hashem, Who designated the occurrence for a special purpose.
But why did Eliezer use this ambiguous terminology of hakreh—make a chance occurrence—when Eliezer was clearly asking for Divine Providence at the moment? Eliezer said “hakreh na lefanai” because he realized that finding the most suitable match for Yitzchak was totally out of his hands. He needed a “chance” occurrence to happen where Hashem would designate a good shidduch for Yitzchak. This teaches us a great lesson in shidduchim: While an individual needs to take the appropriate actions to find a shidduch, it ultimately happens due to Divine Providence.
This is very encouraging for everyone involved in the important mitzvah of trying to set up shidduchim. We need not get despondent if our efforts do not initially materialize, as Hashem makes it happen; it is totally out of our hands. We make the effort and offer our suggestions and Hashem does the rest..
My friend Betzalel Wagner told me an incredible insight that Rav Meir Stern, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah of Passaic, shares with each chasan and kallah. “Although a shadchan might have set you up, the real shadchan was Hashem. As the Gemara says, Hashem makes zivugim—Hashem makes the matches. Clearly, it was Hashem’s intervention that made this shidduch appealing to you, guiding you to select one person over another and helping you make your final decision to marry each other. However, after the match is sealed at the wedding, each new married couple is given the full power over their relationship. It is as if Hashem hands you the keys to your car to drive away on your own.”
May Hashem provide shidduchim for all those looking and may Hashem give married couples the tools to maintain a beautiful and healthy marriage.
Rabbi Yoel Gold told the following story: Yaakov was accepted into a prestigious law school that had no other religious Jews. Despite this, he decided to wear his yarmulke and tzitzis openly. Upon graduation, the school hosted major law firms for interviews. Yaakov faced the dilemma again: Should he continue to openly show his observance? The morning of his interview with a desirable law firm, he decided not to wear his yarmulke and tzitzis. As he entered the room to meet the “power attorney” who could hire him, he faced…a chasidishe man with a large yarmulke, beard and tzitzis. He said, “We selected you from all the other students because we heard you wore your yarmulke and tzitzis for your four years in law school. A person who sticks to his values so well—that’s what we want for our firm. But I see you do compromise on your values. We are no longer interested.” Yaakov lost the job, but learned a lesson for life.
There is a special blessing Hashem accords to those who follow in His mitzvos, especially when it puts them at odds with the worldview. The Midrash quotes a pasuk in Iyov, “V’achar ori nikfu zos,” and the midrash explains that this refers to many more people being drawn in after Avraham performed the bris milah on himself. Why? Avraham and Sarah had been bringing people close to Hashem and making them Jewish for decades prior to the bris milah. The Sfas Emes explains that objectively, the requirement to perform a bris milah for any male who wanted to be Jewish might sabotage Avraham’s ability to bring people closer to Hashem. As convincing as Avraham and Sarah were, once people would hear this requirement, they might say, “Sorry, I’m not willing to do that!” Yet Avraham went ahead with Hashem’s command, and after his bris milah, many more people converted than before!
A similar challenge occurred with regard to the Akeida (sacrifice of Yitzchak). Rav Shach explains that Avraham had been teaching for years that Hashem is compassionate and caring. If Avraham were to slaughter the only child born to him and Sarah in their old age at Hashem’s direction, surely people would scoff and dismiss him. Nonetheless, Avraham went against his own instincts to follow Hashem’s command.
Rav Tzadok Hakohen says this is the rule for any mitzvah: It must be followed no matter what people may say, and he lists an example. A Jewish farmer must separate terumos and ma’asros from produce grown in Eretz Yisrael, which totals 20% of the yield. Seemingly, this is a significant loss to the farmer. The pasuk says “aser ta’aser,” you shall surely tithe. The Gemara notes that the root letters of the word ta’aser are the same as those for osher, wealth. In using the same word twice, Hashem is giving a blessing: If you tithe, you will gain wealth. Thus the cost of giving terumah and ma’aser, instead of creating a loss, will actually yield a monetary gain! There is one condition, however. Reb Tzadok says the blessing is given only when the mitzvah is performed lishma—altruistically.
In everyday life we encounter situations in which we may feel tempted to compromise our observance of halacha, since it appears our observance will result in a loss. We learn from the above instances that if we don’t compromise our principles, we will merit an increase in blessing and extra help from Hashem to perform each mitzvah in its most optimal form.