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Jewish Texts

Eliezer’s Repeated Story

Question: In the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah the story of Eliezer and Rivkah (Rebecca) is written twice. What are the differences and why is Eliezer’s name not mentioned?

Answer: Hi! Thank you for these interesting and important questions, which I struggle with as well; I can only offer suggestions.

The story of Eliezer and Rivka isn’t really told twice. Things are described once as they happen, then again when Eliezer reports them to Rivka’s family. The Torah is including the full transcript of Eliezer’s report.

The Torah can’t usually write out every single event that happens. It picks out the very most important points. The Torah has a different way that it usually uses to fill in the details; it’s called the Oral Torah, or the Midrash. The story could have been very brief in the Written Torah, with all the other details left for the Midrash.

G-d chose not to write Eliezer’s story that way. Our sages say, Even the casual conversation of the servants of the Patriarchs are better than the Torah of their children. Apparently these details are very precious. Eliezer was an extremely important person. I expect that is because Abraham was an extremely important person, and Eliezer made himself a central part of Abraham’s life.

As to the differences between the two accounts, you have to look at them one at a time. Some may have to do with Eliezer’s purposes in how best to present things to Rivka’s family. Others might have to do with Eliezer’s own attitude toward things. There are commentaries that discuss various differences.

It is really interesting that Eliezer’s name isn’t mentioned. I’m assuming it has to do with his total commitment to his master’s goals. He is always called either the “servant of Avraham” or “the man” (it’s also interesting to see which one he is called when). Note that he even repeatedly calls G-d himself “Hashem – the G-d of my master Abraham”.

Best wishes,
Michoel Reach

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