Praying isn’t as easy at it seems. Sometimes we pray for something for years and never seem to be answered, yet on other occasions we can see immediate success in our prayers.
In this week’s parsha we learn of one of the greatest prayers in history; that of Eliezer.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said, “Three people were answered while their words were still upon their tongues; Avraham’s servant Eliezer, Moshe, and Shlomo.”
Regarding Eliezer, the verse states, “He had not yet finished speaking and — look! — Rivkah… came out” (v. 15).
Regarding Moshe, the verse states, “When he finished speaking all these words [after his authority had been challenged by Korach], the ground split open” (Bamidbar 16:31).
Regarding Shlomo, the verse states, “When Shlomo finished speaking to G‑d [at the inauguration of the holy temple], the fire descended from heaven”(Bereishis Rabah 60:4).
Three Tsadikim prayed and were answered. Yet there is a difference between Eliezer and the others. Eliezer’s prayer seems to be even greater, as he was answered even before he had finished his prayer.
Upon inspection the torah goes to great lengths to tell us about Eliezer’s mission. Much ink is spilled (so to speak) from the time Avraham sends him away to the time he succeeds in getting Rivka’s consent.
Why does the torah elaborate so much on his mission? Who was Eliezer and was he really so great?
The Midrash brings a famous encounter between Avraham and Nimrod. Nimrod was the ruler of a vast empire, and believed himself to be a deity. Avraham had other ideas and knew the truth. He challenged Nimrod and was thrown into the fire. Hashem saved Avraham, and shortly after Avraham left the country.
There is an amazing Targum Yonatan that states that Eliezer was none other than the son of Nimrod.
Nimrod seeing that this man Avraham had succeeded was so impressed that he said it would be better that his son clings to such a man, then to stay a prince in his palace.
Eliezer thus became Avraham’s servant. But what kind of servant was he?
Avarham referred to his servant as ‘Damesek Eliezer’.
Our Sages teach us that the word Damesek is an acronym of the words “Doleh Umashkeh”, meaning the one who draws from the well and gives of it’s water. Furthermore, “He (Eliezer) controlled all that was his (Avrahams).” This teaches us that Eliezer had dominion over the Torah of Avraham (Yoma 28b). Eliezer had complete mastery of Avraham’s teachings and was authorised to disseminate his lessons to others. The Midrash adds that Eliezer had control over all that was his – himself; he had complete self-control and mastery over his yetzer hara.
He was Avraham’s Talmid, his vehicle for fulfilling his mission in the world of spreading Hashem’s life sustaining Torah. He drew from Avraham’s Torah and fed others. Not only was he a Talmid Chacham but he was also the most faithful of servants to Avraham. Although he expounded on Avraham’s teachings to the public, he managed Avraham’s estate and was Avraham’s representative to the world, he introduced himself to Betuel and Lavan as ‘Eved Avraham anochi’ – I am Avraham’s slave. He considered himself to be a mere servant and did not take credit for his achievements.
When the time came to look for a wife for Yitschak, Avraham summoned none other then his top confidant Eliezer for the mission. Avraham did not want his son to marry any Canaanite women, and chose to send Eliezer in search of a wife to his family in Aram Naharayim. The Midrash enlightens us as to what occurred before Eliezer set off. Eliezer himself was father to a lovely daughter. In his eyes, it would have been the perfect match. He yearned that his daughter marries Yitschak. He approached Avraham and hinted to him that his daughter would offer the perfect match.
Avraham’s response was startling. “My son is Baruch, blessed, and you are Arur, cursed, and one who is Arur cannot cleave to one who is Baruch.” Eliezer was a descendent of Cana’an the son of Cham who was cursed by Noach, whereas Avraham was descended from Shem, who received Noach’s blessings – they could not match.
Wow. If we were Eliezer, I wonder how we would have reacted to hearing that. Something like – I have been your confident, your servant for years. I do all you say, I teach your torah, I am in charge of your house, you are everything for me, how can you call me cursed?!
However, Eliezer’s reaction was far from that. Instead he kept quiet, and fulfilled his master’s request to go to Aram Naharayim many miles away to find a wife for Yitschak.
He arrived at the well and makes a supplication to the G-d of his master Avraham, and before he knows it he is answered. We can now understand why his prayer was so potent.
The Gemara states ‘The world subsists only through the merit of he, who in a quarrel restrains himself to nothingness – “bolem azmo beshaat meriva”. As it says “He hangs the earth upon nothing” (belima) (Iyov, 26:7). R. Abbahou said: the World rests only upon the merit of the one who thinks of himself as nothing, as it says “Underneath are the arms of the world” (Devarim 33:27).
His prayer was potent because the whole world rested upon his shoulders. The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 60:7) relates that through Eliezer’s dedication and loyalty to Avraham, he changed from Arur to Baruch!
He might have been justified to answer back, to even renegade against his Shelichut, but that wasn’t Eliezer. Eliezer was an Eved Ne’eman, a true servant, true to Hashem and true to Avraham. This was a massive merit.
Yet this was not the only thing Eliezer had going for him.
Before he set out, Avraham had prayed that Hashem send before him his Malach to help Eliezer. And once Eliezer reached the well, he prayed in the merit of Avraham. Thus Eliezer had the help of Zechut Avot. He prayed to Hashem in the merit of Avraham.
With these two powerful antidotes, his massive merit after an act of Belima, and the merit of Avraham enabled his prayer to reach the highest of heavens and he was answered even before he finished praying.
The best time to pray is after an act of selflessness. When one acts against his will but for the will of Hashem. When we conquer our Yetser hara, that is the sha’at Ratson.
That Et Ratson together with the Zechut Avot will surely lead to success.