Chayei Sarah, 5778

A Late Arrival

It was after midnight on Tuesday night. Los Angeles International Airport, usually bustling with frenetic crowds was quieting down. The day had been a very long one. I summoned an Uber driver hoping for a silent ride. Instead I was connected to a most unusual, African American driver. He was kind, and had a sensitive demeanor and delicate voice.  Our fascinating conversation started at the airport and did not end until after he stopped outside my home.

My driver explained to me how sensitive he is to the energy of his passengers. For example, he avoids taking people to work because when most people go to work in the mornings they are tense and stressed. He finds their stressful energy affects him and lingers in his car for hours. He prefers taking people to happy places or taking them to their homes. When he does get bad energy in his car, he told me, he looks out for the type of passenger he calls a sage. “I have no better word and it’s hard to explain. They bring a sanctity into my car. It’s like they have an angel alongside them. I can feel it.”

Is this driver a crazy person, or a super-sensitive man tapping into something real? I am not sure of the answer, although he seemed perfectly well adjusted to me. But I did find a piece of Rabeinu Bechaya (Spain, 1255-1340) on the Parsha (weekly portion of Torah) that supports his experience:

מפני זה תמצא כי מן העת הזאת שהוברר לו כי המלאך עמו, הוא נקרא בפרשה ‘איש’ כי עד עתה קראו בשם עבד.

(ר’ בחיי בראשית כ”ד,ט”ו)

“It is because of this that you will find that from the time that it was clear to him (Eliezer) that an angel was with him, he is referred to in the section as “the man;” because until then it calls him by the term “servant.”

Dual Persona

Astonishingly Rabeinu Bechayei notices how Eliezer, during his mission on behalf of his master, Avraham to find a wife for Avraham’s son, Yitzchak (Isaac), is sometimes referred to in the story as “the man” and sometimes as “the servant.” Moreover, the times he is referred to as “the man,” are from the time he became aware that there was a supernatural force, or angel as we call these forces, supporting his endeavor until the completion of his mission[1].

It is not only the Torah that make this distinction between the two personas of Eliezer – servant and man. Betueil and Lavan, his unsavory hosts, and Rivkah (Rebecca), are also able to notice the distinction. They could discern when Eliezer was a forceful, independent man supported by an angelic aura of power and success, and when he was a humble servant.

What was responsible for the switching back and forth between these two Eliezer personas? Before the start of his mission and after its successful ending Eliezer is experienced just as a loyal employee without the aura of a powerful and successful man. However, while Eliezer was occupied in the higher purpose of finding the second of the Four Matriarchs of the fledgling Jewish nation born to serve God, he was supported by this Divine angel-force. It was in these times that he was experienced by others as an energized, vital and vivacious man rather than as a humble servant. This aura of the accompanying angel, or the sage as my Uber driver referred to it in his own frame of experience, is more than charisma. There is something deep about this aura, this comes from deep within a person. This aura, unlike charisma, has a sanctity to it that others can feel and experience when they encounter it in a man or woman.

Fiery Energy

The term Ish, man, used to describe Eliezer when he was on his mission, is a combination of the Hebrew words Eish, fire or energy, and God’s name represented by the letter yud. An Ish is a person whose passion for the Divine purpose he is working for, radiates a fiery energy that is palpable to all who meet him.

I realized the power of living as a kidush Hashem in the service of sanctifying God’s name. When one is living one’s life for higher purpose and acting in the interests of others without self-interest or ego, one is supported, and even accompanied, by an invisible force much bigger than oneself. This force helps to make positive coincidences happen, it facilitates intersections between people that lead to unpredictable outcomes, it removes obstacles and smooths pathways. When an individual operates on such a  level of spiritual awareness, others experience it too. At such times these individuals radiate an aura of sanctity and tranquility. They are the sages that my Uber driver looks for to cleanse his car.

[1] See Rabeinu Bechaye for a brilliant treatment of his opinion and his explanation of the one or two exceptions to it.