I Trust You but Take an Oath
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
Eliezer was Abraham’s most trusted servant, as stated in the Torah. Eliezer proved his loyalty to the house of Abraham time and again. Yet, when Abraham sends Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac, he insists that Eliezer take an oath. Eliezer vows that he will make every possible effort to find an appropriate mate for Isaac from Abraham’s family. If Abraham trusts Eliezer, why is he adamant that Eliezer take an oath?
Our Sages say that Eliezer, himself, had a daughter of marriageable age and had set his hopes on her marrying Isaac. Some suggest that Abraham, being aware of this vested interest, made Eliezer take an oath. Whilst this explanation is certainly a possibility, it diminishes Eliezer’s stature by assuming that his personal vested interest would affect his loyalty to the wishes of Abraham.
The Telzer Rov, Rabbi Yosef Yehudah Leib Bloch, suggests that, in truth, Abraham trusted Eliezer fully. However, Abraham understood the power of an unbreakable commitment. When a person feels there is no going back and is bound by an iron-clad commitment, a person is able to access wellsprings of inner strength that otherwise remain inaccessible. There is no question that Eliezer would have done his best for Abraham, but Abraham understood that ‘his best under oath’ would be better than his best ‘not under oath.’ Therefore, he makes Eliezer swear to ensure Eliezer is able to access character strengths that may be required in making his mission successful.
The take home message is extremely simple and, yet, simultaneously profound. The key to actualizing our human potential lies in our ability to be firmly committed to our goals. When we view maintaining the status quo as out of the question, our character strengths are revealed and we are, thus, more likely to attain our set goals.