In this week’s Parsha, Eliezer is charged with the job of finding a wife for Yitzchok, preferably one from the family of Avraham. Upon arriving in Aram Naharaim, Eliezer devises a singular test: whichever young lady agrees to feed him and his camels water will be a suitable wife for Yitzchok. This girl will have shown that she has the midda of chesed, loving kindness, and is thus suitable to join Avraham's family, a family which was built on such acts.
This seems odd. We know nothing about this girl or her religious standing. As is evidenced later in the Parsha, the house that Rivka, Yitzchok’s future wife, was raised in was a house that was sunken in the idol worshipping prevalent in the times. One would think that Avraham would prefer his son to marry a religious girl, one who had been raised in the house of one of his students. Yet that was not the case. Why?
The Kli Yakar famously explains that middos tovos, good character traits, are transmitted genetically, from parent to child. Someone who comes from a family of people who have any of a variety of negative character traits will have to battle with those character traits throughout his or her life. In contrast, the mistaken outlook of idol worship is something that is an intellectual mistake. Intellectual mistakes can be fixed much more easily than the instinctual character traits that are imbued in someone from his or her family.
Baruch Hashem, we were given the ultimate key to fix our middos—the Torah. When we learn Torah and mussar, we work on ourselves and can succeed in changing our negative character traits into positive ones. However, it is critical that this not be a task that we take lightly. As the Chofetz Chaim zt”l would put it, parents and educators both have the job to be machen mentschen—to create people who are dignified exemplars of middos tovos, people who truly reflect Hashem and His Torah. We should all daven for hatzlacha as we continuously work on this sacred mission.
Have a great Shabbos,
Menachem Z. Weissmann
Menahel/Head of School