In parshas Chaya Sarah we find Eliezer is sent to find a wife for Yitzchak, the son of his master Avraham. The Torah relates to us the circumstances of his journey and how miraculously just as Eliezer asked for the sign to be, the future wife of Yitzchak gives both him and his camels to drink from the well. Eliezer is shown the way to the house of Besual, the father of Rivka and he bows to and blesses hashem for helping him be successful in his search. After Eliezer is shown into the house of Besual, we find that the Torah (posuk 33:24) tells us that they put down food in front of Eliezer and Eliezer says he will not accept the food until he finishes speaking to them about the purpose for which he came.
On this posuk the Ralbag explains in the tenth lesson, that a lesson we learn from this occurrence with Eliezer is that it is proper that if a person has a certain goal he should not be lax in attaining it, but should put every effort possible into the realizement of it until it has been reached. This is seen from the actions of Eliezer, that he refused to accept the food until he had stated his objective and secured Rivka as a wife for Yitzchak. For if Eliezer had accepted the food then psychologically he would have lost a certain edge in the bargaining which he had before accepting a favor from them. By the fact that Eliezer was being as zealous as possible in accomplishing the mission he was sent to do he was not able to accept the food from his hosts.
When the scenario in which the Ralbag is saying pshat is analyzed we will see an amazing novelty. Eliezer has come on a mission for Avraham. Miraculously his trip which should have taken three days takes only one day. Subsequently he asks Hashem for a sign to show him which girl is the right one that he should find for Yitzchak, and almost immediately he finds her, and she is from the family of Avraham as Avraham specified. With everything going so well and miracles taking place before his eyes one would think that eating first before making the deal would not have been a breach in his efforts to complete his mission. Yet we see from the Ralbag that if Eliezer would have taken part of the food first he would have been lacking in some measure of zealousness.
A similar lesson can be seen from Megilas Esther. When the king is reminded about how Mordechai saved his live and desires to repay him he tells Haman to get Mordechai, dress him in the clothes of the king and lead him about the city on the horse of the king saying, "so shall be done to the man who finds favor with the king". One can only imagine the great expectations Mordechai might have felt. Haman wanted to destroy the entire Jewish people yet Mordechai was now in favor with the king. One might think that now Mordechai could now be somewhat confident about the fate of the Jewish people, considering that the hand of Hashem was quite evident. Yet the Midrash in parsha 10, paragraph 6 of Megila Rabba, comments on the Megila that when it says, "And Mordechai returned to the gate of the king.", that it means he returned to his sackcloth and fasting, to teach you that one should not remove his sackcloth or stop fasting until his request is fulfilled. Once again we see the necessity to be steadfast in our efforts to accomplish our goals and not let ourselves be lulled into complacency by a fortunate turn of events or the clear display of divine guidance.
This mussar discourse is based on a mussar discourse given by Rabbi Avraham Boruch Rauch, Rosh Yeshiva of WITS, the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study.
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