It was last year in the week of Parshas Chayei Sarah that my older brother, Binyamin, got married to Sarah Miriam Kaplan. Both had been single for many years and never married. They planned for a small wedding, with more friends coming for dancing and a buffet at the end. To their surprise, when they walked down the aisle, every seat was taken, every inch of standing space was filled, and the side rooms and halls were packed! Friends and coworkers were just so elated for them that they had to be there to witness that special ceremony. Everyone who had met them together or attended the wedding had the same reaction. “They are so perfect for each other. How come no one set them up earlier?!”
Parshas Chayei Sarah is known as the parsha of shidduchim, as Avraham sends his trusted servant Eliezer on a mission to find a suitable shidduch (match) for Yitzchak. In the yeshiva Mir Yerushalayim, Rav Eliyahu Boruch Finkel, zt”l, gave his famous yearly shidduchim shiur on Parshas Chayei Sarah, presenting many fundamental concepts on how to find a match and what qualities to look for.
When Eliezer came to Charan, he davened to Hashem, “Hakreh na lefanai...,” Hashem, “may You so chance it for me this day” that a perfect match will approach the well…and please make a sign that I will know she is the one. Why does Eliezer refer to this as a chance occurrence? He is asking Hashem for Divine intervention; clearly this will not be a chance occurrence!!
Rav Hirsch points out the word mikreh—chance—is used in other places in the Torah with a different meaning. In commanding cities of refuge be set up for an accidental murderer, the Torah says, “V’hikreisem lachem arim,” which Rashi translates as “designate cities for yourselves.” Similarly, Yitzchak asks Yaakov, who was impersonating Eisav to obtain Eisav’s bracha, “How did you catch an animal so quickly?” to which Yaakov replied, “Hashem hakreh lefanai, Hashem placed it before me.”
What’s the connection between the two seemingly opposite meanings of mikreh—chance and designate? Further, Rav Hirsch explains that similar-sounding Hebrew words that have different spellings are related in meaning. The root word karah, whose last letter is heh (used in the word mikreh, meaning chance or designate), and the root word kara with an aleph at the end (used in the word mikreh meaning call) are related. When calling someone, you attract their attention and cause them to look toward your direction. A mikreh (chance) occurrence is really a case of something unexpected happening that calls our attention. When a “chance” occurrence happens, it should turn our focus to the One Who caused the chance occurrence—Hashem. The two meanings of the word mikreh with a heh—chance and designate—are really one and the same, as all chance occurrences originate from Hashem, Who designated the occurrence for a special purpose.
But why did Eliezer use this ambiguous terminology of hakreh—make a chance occurrence—when Eliezer was clearly asking for Divine Providence at the moment? Eliezer said “hakreh na lefanai” because he realized that finding the most suitable match for Yitzchak was totally out of his hands. He needed a “chance” occurrence to happen where Hashem would designate a good shidduch for Yitzchak. This teaches us a great lesson in shidduchim: While an individual needs to take the appropriate actions to find a shidduch, it ultimately happens due to Divine Providence.
This is very encouraging for everyone involved in the important mitzvah of trying to set up shidduchim. We need not get despondent if our efforts do not initially materialize, as Hashem makes it happen; it is totally out of our hands. We make the effort and offer our suggestions and Hashem does the rest..
My friend Betzalel Wagner told me an incredible insight that Rav Meir Stern, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah of Passaic, shares with each chasan and kallah. “Although a shadchan might have set you up, the real shadchan was Hashem. As the Gemara says, Hashem makes zivugim—Hashem makes the matches. Clearly, it was Hashem’s intervention that made this shidduch appealing to you, guiding you to select one person over another and helping you make your final decision to marry each other. However, after the match is sealed at the wedding, each new married couple is given the full power over their relationship. It is as if Hashem hands you the keys to your car to drive away on your own.”
May Hashem provide shidduchim for all those looking and may Hashem give married couples the tools to maintain a beautiful and healthy marriage.
Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Paramus, Fair Lawn, Livingston and West Orange. He initiated and leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. He has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis medrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston, Fort Lee and a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected] For more info about PTI and its full offering of torah classes visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.