> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Seize the Moment

The Pursuit of Objectivity

Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18 )

by Rabbi Jared Viders

Hard-wired into each of our psyches is a set of particular biases that lurks in the background (conscious or subconscious) and threatens to quietly hijack our decision-making processes.

Some people's entire lives are cued up in terms of dollars and cents. Such people, for instance, read a menu from right to left and order food based on the list price.

Others' decisions are motivated by concerns for efficiency and effective time management. I heard of one fellow who refused to date anyone who lived on the south shore because it meant battling traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway.


In the Parsha, we find that Eliezer has been sent my Avraham Avinu to find a suitable wife for Yitzchak. En route, Eliezer concocts a brilliant strategy whereby he'll be able to identify an appropriate spouse to become the next Matriarch of the Jewish people. "And [Eliezer] said, 'Hashem … may You so arrange it for me this day ... Let it be that the young woman to whom I shall say, "please tip over your pitcher so I may drink' and who replies, 'Drink and I will even water your camels,' she will" be the One that You have designated to be a wife for Yitzchak. (Gen. 24:12-14).

Question: Why did Eliezer need to implement such a litmus test to facilitate his search? After all, Eliezer was the "chief of staff" to Avraham Avinu - the epitome of kindliness - and, as a result, had probably witnessed hundreds if not thousands of acts of generosity over the years. Why not just wait by the well, observe what transpires and when some local woman conducts herself in accord with such ideals of generosity and selflessness, Eliezer will readily realize such character traits and that'll be the one? What advantage was Eliezer seeking to create vis-à-vis this Divinely-inspired gauge?

Perhaps the answer lies in Eliezer's cognizance of his own bias and his sincere desire to neutralize that bias so as not to warp his own perceptions of objective reality. Eliezer had a daughter himself, whom he would desire nothing more than to marry her off to Yitzchak Avinu. So long as that possibility percolated through his mind, perhaps Eliezer's capacity to discern positive attributes in others would be warped and manipulated so as to comport with his own interests. Only by imposing an objective structure - i.e., if x, y and z transpire, I'll know that she is the one - was Eliezer assured that objective reality and not his perception thereof would carry the day.

Perhaps that explains why Eliezer injects the notion of "truth" into his narrative. "Blessed is Hashem … Who has not withheld His kindness and truth from my master." (Gen. 24:27)

For Eliezer truly sought more than just kindness (for that might be subjective and open to interpretation) but sought such kindness through the prism of truth whereby the biases that we each harbor could be filtered the spectrum of truth. While biases are part and parcel of the human condition, it behooves one to find a modicum of objectivity when it comes to decision-making lest personal biases derail our desire of truth.

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