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Chayai Sarah

on Friday, October 25 2013. Posted by Rabbi Uri Pillichowski

While the method of teaching, the material taught, and assessment metrics are all essential for a successful educational experience, a proper learning environment lends to even better learning for the student and easier teaching for the teacher. A proper learning environment includes a place that is without distractions, clean and well lit.

When creating a proper learning environment for Torah study and observance there are other factors that are important as well. In this week’s Sedra, we find an example of setting up the most effective environment for Torah observance. The example in this week’s sedra is interesting for the environment is set not by those who study or observe the Torah, but in fact the opposite, those that worship idols. The goal of this Dvar Torah is to give the reader direction in setting up proper environments.

In our Sedra we learn of Avraham’s servant Eliezer being set on a mission to find his master’s son Yitzchak, a wife. Avraham wasn’t happy with the values of those around him and didn’t want his son marrying into families with low moral standards. Avraham sent Eliezer back to his homeland to find a wife with proper values.

Eliezer sets out on his quest with certain goals in mind. Eliezer was first and foremost looking for a girl with a character full of kindness. His search ended fairly quickly when he ran into a beautiful young woman named Rivkah who upon meeting Eliezer offers him and his camels water. Amazed at this girl’s startling character, Eliezer is interested in meeting her family and is invited back to her home to arrange the marriage of Rivkah and Yitzchak.

Hashem records that when Rivkah’s family prepares for Eliezer’s arrival, Lavan, the master of the house, sees Eliezer outside and says to him, “”Come, you who are blessed of the Lord. Why should you stand outside, when I have cleared the house, and a place for the camels?” In his commentary on this verse, Rashi wrote that Lavan didn’t merely clean the house to ensure it was neat and orderly, but rather he rid it of idols.

Lavan understood that marrying Rivkah to Yitzchak wasn’t merely finding her a suitable spouse, but was marrying her to a lifestyle of morals and values. To set the tone and establish a foundation for the rest of her life, a proper environment needed to be created. Like the teacher setting up a classroom for proper learning, Lavan sets up his home for proper Torah observance by ridding the home of idols. When setting the environment for Torah learning and observance, all ideas, especially idolatrous and primitive ones must be set aside and cleared away.

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