SALT - Friday, 24 Cheshvan 5780 - November 22, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            We read in Parashat Chayei-Sara of Avraham’s instruction to his servant to find a wife for Yitzchak from Avraham’s homeland, and not from among the women in Canaan (24:3-4).  Later (24:8), Avraham qualifies this command, telling his servant that if the suitable match does not wish to leave her homeland and relocate in Canaan to marry Yitzchak, then he is free to find a match from the local Canaanite population.
            The Ralbag, in listing the different lessons (“toaliyot”) to be learned from this section, finds it significant that Avraham recognized the possibility that his preferred match – a girl from his homeland – would not be found, and was prepared to accept the less ideal situation.  The Ralbag writes:
            When a person is not able to achieve the perfect good, it is not proper for him to be lax in striving to achieve the next best thing.  It is instead proper for him to try to acquire the good that is possible for him.  And therefore, Avraham allowed Eliezer to take a woman for Yitzchak from among the Canaanite women if it turned out that he could not find a woman from Avraham’s homeland who wanted to follow him.
            In the very next passage, the Ralbag writes that we also learn from this story the importance of devising strategies and utilizing every resource when we seek to achieve something.  The servant brought with him an enormous amount of Avraham’s riches (24:10) in an effort to attract the suitable match, showing the importance of strategizing in striving for our goals.  At the same time, however, the Ralbag learns from this story that we must also be willing to accept the next best thing when our ideal plans do not materialize – just as Avraham accepted the possibility that a wife for Yitzchak might have to be found from among the local tribes.  As important as it is to passionately and diligently work to fulfill our dreams and realize our aspirations, we must be satisfied with the realistically best outcome.  If we stubbornly insist on nothing other than perfection, we are setting ourselves up for a life of disappointment and frustration.  In every area of life, we should strive for the ideal but be prepared to accept and be satisfied with less, humbly acknowledging that life is not meant to be, and will never be, perfect, and we can live happily and contentedly even if not all our ideal preferences are met.