Parshas Chayei Sara (5772)
By Rabbi David Zauderer
Remember that 2002 science fiction thriller with the aliens and the crop circles, directed by M. Night Shyamalan? Signs portrays a former preacher (played by every Jew’s favorite actor Mel Gibson) who, upon miraculously surviving a major attack on his home from extra-terrestrial beings, comes to believe that many of the seemingly random and tragic events of the past few years were designed to save him and his family at that moment, and this restores his faith in G-d.
Well, guess what? We Jews may not believe in aliens making crop circles, but we do believe in signs from Heaven. And nowhere more so than when it comes to finding one’s bashert, or designated marriage partner.
As we read in this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Chayei Sarah, Eliezer, the trusted emissary of Abraham, travels from the Land of Israel to Charan to find a suitable marriage partner for his master’s son Isaac. As he stands at the well just outside the town, Eliezer prays to G-d and asks for a heavenly sign that will show him which girl is the right one for Isaac. Sure enough, Rebecca does exactly what Eliezer had prayed for, and the shidduch (match) between her and Isaac is made. [You can read the entire amazing story in Genesis 24:1-67].
And this happens with many other shidduchim in the Bible – one has only to scratch the surface to uncover the many amazing signs and “coincidences” that took place so that this couple should meet.
Take, for example, the shidduch of the greatest Jew who ever lived. As we are told in the Midrash, Moses grew up in the palace of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. One day he took Pharaoh’s crown and playfully placed it on his head. The king’s advisors saw this as a dangerous omen and told Pharaoh to kill the young child at once. Jethro, one of the king’s ministers, suggested that instead of killing him, they should ‘test’ Moses to see if he were actually smart enough to have taken the crown with intentions of one day being king. So they placed two trays in front of little Moses – one of sparkling diamonds and one of burning hot coals – and he went for the coals, thus showing that he wasn’t a threat to the king, and his life was spared. Many years later, Jethro’s daughters were being harassed and attacked by the local Midianite shepherds (see Exodus 2:16-22) and along came Moses and saved them. He was then invited into Jethro’s house and ended up marrying his daughter Tzipporah.
Can you imagine what everyone was saying at Moses’ and Tzipporah’s engagement party?! As a child, Moses is saved by his future father-in-law, and years later ends up saving his future father-in-law’s daughter. What a sign from heaven! This shidduch must
This is true not just in ancient times. Today as well, if one looks into any shidduch one can easily find signs that show the hand of G-d leading these two people to each other.
I recently read a story (in Rabbi Yisroel Reisman’s book Pathways of the Prophets) about a man who lost his wife of many years due to illness and who was preparing to start dating again to find a second wife. He had grown children who were also dating at the time and he told them that he was really nervous about the whole thing but he was taking his cue from the Torah. Eliezer asked G-d for a sign that would lead him to the right person. When he got to the well, Eliezer saw the water magically coming up towards Rebecca (see Rashi’s commentary to Genesis 24:17), and he realized that G- d had sent him this sign. The man told his children that he, too, would pray to G-d for a sign when the right one comes along. That evening, he nervously phoned his first shidduch prospect. The woman on the other end of the line sounded flustered as she said: “I have to apologize. I know that we were planning to speak at 8:30, but I have an emergency. I have little children, and one of them just flushed a toy down the toilet, and it is overflowing. All the water is coming up toward me. I can’t talk to you right now. Please call back in an hour”. Needless to say, the man hung up the phone with a big smile on his face, thinking about the “sign” he was just sent from above. The couple is now happily married.
I can share with you a personal “sign” that happened to me when I first met my wife over 19 years ago. It was Chol HaMoed Pesach (the Intermediate Days of Passover) and the custom of many ‘holy’ Jews in New York and New Jersey is to go to either a New York Mets game at Shea Stadium (others say New York Yankees game in the Bronx) or to Six Flags Great Adventure Amusement Park in New Jersey. I chose to go to Shea Stadium with two of my friends, happily munching on our matzah sandwiches as we watched the Mets win. As we left the stadium at the end of the game with the throngs of happy Met fans all around us, I noticed an African-American fellow standing there with a saxophone and an open case in front of him. I will never forget what happened next. He pointed to me and said, “Hey, there, this song is for you!” and, to my utter amazement, began to play Od Yishama, the most traditional Jewish wedding song, on his sax. Needless to say, I threw a generous donation into his saxophone case and went home. That very night was my first date with my wife. We have been happily married for the past 19 years.
The Talmud in Moed Katan 18b teaches that that the marriage of a man to his wife is predestined by G-d. We learn this from the story of Eliezer and Rebecca in this week’s Torah portion. When Laban and Bethuel (Rebecca’s wicked brother and father) heard Eliezer’s amazing tale of how he asked G-d for a sign to lead him to the right girl, and how Rebecca came right after that and did everything Eliezer had asked for, they were both forced to acknowledge that this was bashert and that “the matter stemmed from G-d” (see Genesis 24:50).
We, too, have only to look into our own lives – and especially into the way we met our
marriage partner – and we will see signs from above. Just think of how our parents or grandparents and our spouses’ parents or grandparents had to emigrate from their respective homelands and end up together in the same city just for their children to be able to meet each other. And there are many other signs from above that we can find if we only open our eyes and our hearts to them.
May we merit to see signs of the loving hand of G-d in every aspect of our lives. Amen.