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He said: 'I am Abraham's servant'… tell me if you intend to do kindness and truth with my master, and if not, tell me, and I will turn to the right or to the left' (24: 34, 49)
The Torah narrates the events leading up to servant's (linked according to tradition with Eliezer; c.f. 15:2) meeting with Isaac's future wife twice. Once as they actually take place. The second when the servant is in her father's - Bethuel's - home. The text does not say that 'he told him all what happened' (c.f. 24:66), but recounts the word-by-word account of the events as reported by the servant. Rashi brings Bereishit Rabba (59:9) which remarks that this illustrates the great esteem given to the words employed in service of the Patriarchs.
In fact there are two other instances where Torah appears to repeat itself. One is the account of the details of the building of the Tabernacle, taking up much of the latter half of the Book of Exodus. The other is with the offering of tribes' princes at the Dedication of the Tabernacle. There (Numbers 7), each prince's offering is recorded in detail, even though they were all identical.
As a possible explanation, each of the three instances have the following in common. They show the interaction of G-d / divinely inspired command on one hand, and human judgment on the other. In the service of G-d, one is required to apply maturity and experience to situations - then and now. The paragraphs below elaborate.
The Torah recounts instances of G-d testing Adam, Noah, and Abraham, but the servant was the first person who 'tested G-d' (c.f. Deut. 6). Namely, this was in the particular way he asked G-d to ensure that Isaac's intended would be revealed 'doing the right thing, at the right place, and at the right time' (24:12-14). He also cut out part of Abraham's instructions - instead of saying that he was to go find a spouse for Isaac 'to my land and birthplace' (24:3), he made it more Rebecca-specific in reporting he was to go to 'my father's house and family' (24:38) But he did it selflessly (without any order from Abraham - in such a way as to ensure the parents would agree to Rebecca's marriage to Isaac, and thus that the great Patriarch's work would be promoted down the generations - and in this, Rebecca was a vital link of the moment. As the text quotes: 'and I may know through her that you have done kindness with my master' (24:14).
The same applies to the Tabernacle. Though the vessels of the Tabernacle were commanded before the actual Tabernacle building, Betzalel reversed the order in the second account - with the ideal that the items which had the greatest holiness (the Ark containing the Two Tablets of Stone) should have an suitable environment in which to reside immediately on construction. And the same applies with the offering of the princes - Nachshon was the first to make his contribution, but the fact that all others brought the same came from similar reasoning - that in such a dedication ceremony should not be an occasion of rivalry and one-upmanship between the tribes.
PS - The same principle is true of the double narration of Pharaoh's dreams - to which in a similar vein Pharaoh gave a slightly changed version of the dreams in an attempt to confuse and test Joseph. Joseph likewise knew what to take at face value and what (with the spirit of G-d in him) had to be discarded (following the Tanchuma).
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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