Who Are You?

“And he said: ‘I am Avraham’s servant’.” (Breisheet 24:34)

Avraham had sent his faithful servant, Eliezer of Damascus, the “elder of his house” who “ruled over all that he had”, after having him take an oath, to go back to Avraham’s home country to take a wife for Yitzhak so that he need not have to take a wife “of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell” (see verses 2 – 9 there).

When Laban inquires as to the identity of this man who had merited the kindness of Rivka, the man announces “I am Avraham’s servant”.  Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin, in a Third Meal conclave, found the language problematic.  Eliezer used the first person pronoun, “I”, in a unique form.  In Hebrew, it is אנכי, ‘Anochi‘, which is usually reserved for God as in the first verse of the Ten Commandments: אנכי ה’ א-לקיך, “I am the Lord, Your God” and in Breisheet 15– the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, thy reward shall be exceeding great.’ (but not exclusively)

Was Eliezer being presumptuous?  Self-centered? Haughty?

R’ Shlomo suggests not.  He explains that Avraham was constantly involved in bringing people closer to God, making Jews.  As such, he was always mentioning God’s name, actually shouting it out.  And he used the form אנכי, the special “I”.  He was revealing the reality of the divinity that was the one true God as distinct from the idolatrous spirituality that existed.  That was Avraham’s revolution.

Avraham’s faithful servant, the one he trusted to arrange the correct marriage for his son, having been the closest to Avraham, constantly heard God being referred to in all Avraham’s doings.

So when he was asked who he was, he actually responded, “I am the servant of Avraham, the one who constantly calls out the name of God as  אנכי – ‘Anochi‘”.  Just as Avraham would seek to enthuse all about God, to excite them with the new burning fire, so, too, was Eliezer caught up and when asked about himself, when he mentioned Avraham, the defining characteristic of ‘Anochi‘ naturally followed.

Eliezer knew who he was – the assistant and follower of a man who bound on a life’s mission.  And he absorbed that path for himself and identified with it so fully that when he revealed who he was, he also called out “I am with Anochi“.

Can we all reach that level of identification with a cause, with a mission, that we understand the vital importance of the central element and proceed from there?

Rabbi Shlomo HaLevy of Karlin in She’ma Shlomo, p. 42 sourced by the Dvash HaSadeh.

Rabbi Shlomo, (1738-1792), was a pupil of the Great Maggid and a follower/comrade of Aaron the Great, the first Chassidic Rebbe of Karlin.  He was a martyr, shot in his leg by Cossacks in a synagogue in Ludmir during a pogrom which accompanied a Polish uprising against Russia.  Refusing to be treated on the Sabbath, he died almost a week later.

His yahrtzeit is 22 Tammuz.


About yisraelmedad

I am a revenant, that is, a Jew who has returned to his historical homeland. I live in Shiloh, the pre-monarchy capital of the Israel tribal federation where I have lived with my family since 1981. I have been in Israel since 1970. Previously, I have worked in the Knesset, as a parliamentary aide, in Government, as an advisor to a Minister and Deputy-Minister, as director of Israel’s Media Watch, and now retired Director of Information Resources at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center after 17 years. I have now been appointed Deputy Editor to the critical anthology edition of Jabotinsky's Writings in English.
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One Response to Who Are You?

  1. I thought this related:

    One night, R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi knocked on the Maggid’s door. “Who’s there?” asked the Maggid.

    “It is I,” said R. Shneur Zalman.

    “Who?” R. Dov Ber repeated.

    “It is I,” R. Shneur Zalman replied.

    “Who?” the Maggid inquired again.

    “Shneur Zalman,” he answered. With that, he was finally admitted.

    At the Maggid’s request, the next day R. Shneur Zalman went to a bris milah held in a nearby village. Seeing R. Shneur Zalman’s old and tattered clothing, it was assumed that he was a beggar, and he was seated at the end of the table.

    When a silver spoon was found missing after the seudah the “beggar” was immediately suspected of theft. Denying the charge, he shouted, “It was not I!” His accusers began to beat him. “It was not I,” he repeated.

    Eventually, it was discovered that an attendant had taken the spoon, and R. Shneur Zalman was exonerated. When he returned to Mezritch, the Maggid was waiting for him.

    “How many times did you have to shout, ‘Not I’?” he asked his astounded student.

    “Two times you announced to me, ‘It is I,’ he continued. “There is only One in the universe who may say this. If we are aware of HaShem’s presence, how can we, mere mortals, pride ourselves on being ‘I’? We must strive for total bittul, self-effacement.

    “Twice you called yourself ‘I,’ so two times you had to announce, ‘It is not I.'”

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