Multifaceted Prayer

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On Kabbalah Pod I aired an episode briefly highlighting an interesting semiotic tidbit from Parshas Chayei Sarah. In the episode I mention the Torah’s repetition of Eliezer’s journey and the connection to prayer, but only in a brief form. I really want to bring this up as I connects beyond Kabbalah and finds a real connection that helps with the concept of YidBrik: building bridges. 

In Chayei Sarah, we see Eliezer is the servant in charge of all of Avraham’s matters. He is sent out to find a suitable wife for Yitzchak. When he arrives to Avraham’s homeland, he prays to HaShem for a sign. Just as he concluding his speaking with G-d, Rivka appears on the scene and does everything Eliezer looked for. The connect and Eliezer is invited back to the family home for a place to stay. At dinner, Eliezer retells his experience in detail. That’s what is so fascinating.

The sages comment on this too. We see that Torah is very precise and to the point. After all, we have thousands of years of history squeezed into an annual reading cycle. Torah has to be succinct. So if Torah is quick to the point in every regard, why replay the entire conversation? Why not just say and Eliezer told of how he came to be at the well.? That would definitely seem shorter.

The sages highlight the many connections to piety and faith, etc., that brings the reader to needing this divine instant replay. However, if one looks carefully, they see that the phrasing is slightly different. At least it is in the Stone Chumash. I took a look in other translations. Chabad has it different, and so do a variety of Christian translations.

Genesis 24:15

  • Stone Chumash says “speaking.”
  • Chabad says “speaking.”
  • Christian translations (KJV, NASB, NIV) say “speaking.”
  • The root Hebrew word is L’Dabar. This means to make an utterance or talk.

Genesis 24:45

  • Stone Chumash says “meditating.”
  • Chabad says “speaking in my heart.”
  • Christian translations (KJV, NASB) say “speaking.”
  • The root Hebrew word is L’Dabar. This means to make an utterance or talk.

So which is it?

The Christian translations of the text say that in both locations the Hebrew word is the same, L’Dabar. This is a form of conversation-style speaking. If we were limited to this approach, then we can see Eliezer had a relationship with HaShem and spoke to Him with an expectation that G-d would respond in some fashion. Faith.

I don’t want to rely on Christian texts, however, and I’d rather stick with the actual Hebrew over the Septuagint, which often mis-translates. In this case, though, the translation is spot-on.

Literally speaking, from a Semiotic Jewish lens, a Peshat-level interpretation would mean to talk to G-d or to make a request (pray, beseech). This is the plain meaning of the text. But what can we get from this semiotically? After all, Torah repeats this passage for a reason. A Remez/DeRash-level interpretation tells us that in the moment it was a spoken prayer but upon further reflection, Eliezer admits this was also a meditation of the heart. He was one with the request, not duplicitous. Eliezer had the trust of his master and trusted his master as well. His request was a core vibration, making it more than a simple petition or prayer, but speaking from the heart in a mantra meditation.

Bringing It Home

We can have this in our own lives as well. We can seek to ask for what resonates with us and take it beyond mere words and to a place of resonant harmony. We need to be mindful and reflect, be cognizant and engaged, but present and involved. This transforms prayer from a support hotline into a mystical relational conversation.

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