When looking for a wife for Isaac, Eliezer had many criteria – background, family, kindness, to name a few. I want to add in something that I believe was such a given that the Torah didn’t need to mention it, but today I believe it needs to be said. It’s the most important criterion that my wife and I use in considering spouses for our children (we don’t choose our children’s spouses for them, obviously, but our children do ask us to vet appropriate potential individuals).
The criterion I am referring to is what my wife and I call ‘truth-seeking’. We feel that the most valuable quality in a mate is a person who wants to do the right thing. Because that quality will see a relationship through the most challenging of times. By truth-seeking, we mean a person who values what’s right above their own personal wants, needs and desires. Someone who is just as happy to be wrong as they are to be right. OK, maybe that’s too much to ask for, so let’s say someone who, if they are indeed wrong, wants to know about it.
My wife and I deal with a lot of very challenged relationships. One of the biggest problems that we come across is that each partner is stubbornly defending their own position, their own rights, their own ‘values’ or a whole host of other euphemisms for wanting to get their own way and being unwilling to compromise. There is very little that undermines love more than people standing by a ‘truth’ that they refuse to consider. When you have truth-seekers, it plays out very differently. Whilst even truth-seekers can get upset, annoyed, personal and intransigent, the difference is that somewhere along the way, they are open to consider being wrong. And considering that you might be wrong is the crucial first step to solving disagreements in a relationship. I see myself as a truth-seeker because once I can get my ego out of the way (which isn’t necessarily so quickly, but I do always get there), I am genuinely open to hearing truth in my wife’s side of things – no matter how right I think I am. And here’s the really cool thing – the minute I get open, almost invariably (and I only say ‘almost’ because I can’t believe it’s every single time but I don’t actually have a counter example) I see what she is saying and my mind changes and then my heart changes also. And the argument is over. Full stop.
I don’t want to discourage you if you don’t see your partner as a truth-seeker. It can be a learned attitude towards life. People can change. However, I would say that the best way to teach is through example. Learn to be a truth seeker yourself and, with plenty of patience, you might be surprised at how those around you might start to change also.
Parsha in a Nutshell
The portion begins with the death of Sara and Abraham’s search to find her a burial spot. In the end, he buys (for an extortionate price) a quaint little place called Hebron. Little did he realise the future problems this would cause.
Having buried Sara, he finds a wife, Rebecca, for Isaac and they marry. Abraham also marries again, this time to a woman named Keturah. He fathers 6 sons with her and sends them off to live in the Far East, sending with them the secrets of mysticism.
Abraham dies at 175 years of age and is buried, alongside Sara, by his sons Isaac and Ishmael. Ishmael himself dies at the age of 137 and the portion ends with a listing of his 12 sons.