How do they call you? Not a simple question

The question of who a particular person is, gets different answers from different people. Which of them defines it more correctly?

Phil Chernofsky ,

Jew prays on Mount of Olives facing Temple Mount
Jew prays on Mount of Olives facing Temple Mount
Flash 90

What's your name? is a standard question in English. In Hebrew, when you are being given an aliya, the gabbai will ask you what your name is. But, other than that, the regular way that one is asked for his name, is by asking What are you called.

The answer to that question changes, depending on context.

For example, one of my brothers is named Nachum. In the context of his being an English teacher during his earlier years in Israel, he was known as TEACHER (it usually sounded like Teacha, when his students said it). In that context, his actual name was not as important as his role. He is brother, Daddy, Grandpa ... and a bunch of other titles - depending upon who is referring to him. Just an example.

And in Parshat Chayei Sara, we have another example. Tradition tells us that Avraham Avinu sent his longtime, trusted servant to find a suitable wife for Yitzchak. The name of that servant was probably Eliezer, but you would not know it from reading this week's sedra.

The name Eliezer does not appear even once in Chayei Sara, even though we would have expected it to appear many times. Not once.

EICH KOR'IM LO? How is he called? That depends on context.

The first time he is referred to, it is as AVDO (Avraham's servant), Z'KAN BEITO (the elder of his house, major domo), HAMOSHEIL B'CHOL ASHER LO (the on charge of everything that Avraham has). Subsequently, the term EVED AVRAHAM occurs three times in the sedra.

But one of the two major titles that he has in the sedra is HA-EVED, The Servant. That title is used to describe him vis-a-vis Avraham (and Yitzchak). HA-EVED occurs in the sedra, nine times.

Eliezer's other title is HA-ISH, The Man! This term is used in the context of and the relationship to B'tu'el, Lavan, and Rivka. HA-ISH also occurs nine times. Very balanced.

The pasuk that sums up who he was is B'reishit 24:61 - "Rivka arose with her maidens. They rode on the camels, and followed the man. The servant took Rivka, and went his way."

In this pasuk he is referred to as HA-ISH when Rivka first went with him. But, as that was the completion of the betrothel of Rivka to Yitzchak, Rivka became part of the family of Avraham and Eliezer became HA-EVED, the servant. Next occurrence of HA-ISH refers to Yitzchak, Rivka's man.



top