But really, Rivka doesn’t initiate her date with Yitzchak; Avraham sends an agent to find a match:
And we all know the name of עבד אברהם:
But we also know that he is never named in the text. The aggadah find Eliezer in all sorts of places in Avraham’s life:
But in fact, the name of Eliezar appears only once in the Torah:
Now, in terms of פשט, the identification may be reasonable. Certainly, in our parasha, המשל בכל אשר לו sounds synonymous with בן משק ביתי (though it is 60+ years later). נער in this context means “steward”, “high ranking servant” rather than “young man”. The פשט of חניכיו is certainly not just one person, but Eliezer may have been one of them.
But why push it? Why do I care?
Eliezer is seen in the Aggadah as more than a manager of Avraham’s estate; he is Avraham’s foremost disciple:
Where does that come from, that Eliezer is Avraham’s disciple? I think the hint is in his name: דמשק אליעזר. Why mention that he is from Damascus?
דמשק is in Aram. Eliezer came with Avraham from Charan.
דמשק אליעזר is the bridge between פשט and דרש here. He is symbolic of all הנפש אשר עשו בחרן who joined Avraham on his historic journey of לך לך.
We have two different perspectives on Avraham as אב המון גוים. He (as is hinted at in the text but developed in the aggadah) was the leader of a religious movement, an iconoclast who developed a following, preaching ethical monotheism to the world. But the Torah emphasizes the other side, Avraham as a literal father, whose progeny would become the carriers of that ethical monotheism but only after centuries of suffering. By identifying עבדו זקן ביתו as Eliezer, חז״ל are saying that Avraham is not looking to his disciples to continue his legacy.
We’ve discussed before that Avraham’s complaint of הן לי לא נתתה זרע; והנה בן ביתי יורש אתי is in effect rejecting his “adoptive family”, הנפש אשר עשו בחרן. It was אחר הדברים האלה. What דברים האלה? It was the consequence of the aftermath of the War of the Four Kings:
From that point it was Avraham’s mission was about family, not evangelism. Why? There is a hint in the wording in this week’s parasha, as we said last year.
עבדו זקן ביתו is described as an עבד until he gets to Charan and starts making plans and acting independently. Then he is an איש. But when he describes himself to Rivka’s family, he is an עבד again. Being an עבד may be easy, but it is incompatible with being an עבד ה׳:
Avraham looked at his pre-לך לך mission, saw all those followers, and realized they were all only followers. They would serve ה׳, be יראי אלוקים, only as long as he was alive. To truly change the world, he needed not a movement but a nation. And that would be Rivka’s destiny.