Owners Manual Not Included
Imagine you are given a task to perform, without any guidance at all. Your first reaction is a sense of bewilderment, wishing that you had more to go on. We are so accustomed to having a user’s guide for everything, and when we are faced with a blank drawing board, we have difficulty taking ownership and making decisions. We prefer to be told what to do and how to do it. Wouldn’t it be easier if everything in life was clearly explained for us? Why is it that we are responsible to make all of our life decisions?
In this week’s Torah portion, Avraham dispatches his servant Eliezer on a mission to find a suitable bride for Avraham’s son Yitzchak. Avraham did not give Eliezer any advice or guidance. He was meant to figure out his own plan. Indeed, upon arriving at his destination, Eliezer used his own creativity to devise a test by which he would find the proper bride. Hashem blessed Eliezer's endeavors and he met Rivka, who became Yitzchak's wife. Examining the story,we notice that Eliezer had a clear and defined mission, to find a bride for his master’s son. At the same time, the means and methods were left to his discretion. Avraham told him what to do, but he did not advise him how to go about achieving that goal. These two points define the dual nature of an emissary or messenger. On one hand, the emissary stands in the sender's stead, and is considered an extension of the sender. On the other hand, he is a distinct individual, who needs to make decisions and to think on the spot, trusting himself to accomplish the task without the benefit of constant input from the one who is sending him. The above is true in regard to Eliezer, and it is the blueprint for a successful life as well. These two elements, namely, a defined mission and complete autonomy to accomplish the mission, apply to each and every individual. We are all given the task to reveal the latent G-dliness within this world, and ultimately, to bring Moshiach. And yet, even with this clear and defined goal, the means are up to us. We have to be the ones to decide precisely how we will go about realizing the vision. The means at our disposal are the torah and mitzvot, and yet, even with these specific tools, there is much room for independent service of G-d. Consider it like a road trip with a specific destination. You are in the driver’s seat, and you choose the route that will lead you to the destination. G-d gives us the seed, revealing to us what His goal is. We are his messengers, and we are expected to use our talents and gifts to reach that goal. We know what must be accomplished. How to get there is up to us. We all have the same destination, yet are all expected to forge our personal path. We all need to study torah, but it is up to us to decide the subject, and if it should be a public class, one-on-one study, a video or an audio class. We need to build a house of prayer, but the design and location, the furniture and layout is for us to decide. When we operate on these terms, we become transformed, becoming G-d’s partners. When we are given complete instructions, we have no input, the job is being done by us, but we leave no trace upon the final product. When, however, we bear the responsibility of determining how G-d’s goal is to be achieved, then our entire being becomes infused with the work that we do, and the end result is imprinted with our personal contribution. True, it may be easier to be led by the hand. However, the outcome of investing one’s mind and heart in G-d’s service, by using one’s own talents to serve G-d, far outweighs the initial discomfort. When one uses his or her abilities to achieve G-d’s goal, then one’s entire being becomes a vehicle for G-dliness. Then, we don't just reach redemption, rather, we become part of it as well.