ה’ אלקי השמים…הוא ישלח מלאכו לפניך ולקחת אשה לבני משם (כד:ז)
Avraham told his servant Eliezer: “Hashem, our G-d…will send His Malach (angel) before you, and you will take a wife for my son…”
If a person desires to know about shidduchim and how to choose a spouse for himself or one’s children, he should study parshas Chaya Sarah because in this week’s parsha, Avraham sent Eliezer to find a shidduch for Yitzchak. Each step of the shidduch process is described therein; what middos to look for in a shidduch, how to do a shidduch, and the primary lesson is the awareness that Hashem is the one who arranges shidduchim.
The Vilna Gaon zt’’l was once a guest in someone’s home. When he was ready to leave, his host asked him, “I hope everything was good here, and did you enjoy your stay?”
The Vilna Gaon thanked him profusely, saying it was a great achsanyah (guest house). “But there is one thing I noticed while staying in your home that I wanted to ask you about…I saw that you prepare coffee for your wife every morning before making your own. I was wondering why you do this. Is it because Chazal says, מכבדתו יותר מגופו – that one is required to honor his wife more than he honors himself?”
His host replied, “The answer to your question is the story of my life. When I was thirteen years old, I was a prodigy, already well-versed in Torah. A wealthy person wanted me as a son-in-law, and I became engaged. The wedding was scheduled for seven years later when I would be twenty. In the meantime, my future father-in-law hired private tutors so I could grow in Torah. I learned with these tutors for the next seven years and became a great talmid chacham. But when I turned twenty, my future father-in-law lost all his money.”
“I wanted to continue with the shidduch because I had hakaras hatov (indebted gratitude) for the seven years that he hired tutors for me, but my father, may he be well, didn’t permit the marriage. I was a talmid chacham, and he didn’t see it fit for me to marry a poor girl.
Another shidduch was suggested, and I ended up marrying her. But things weren’t so smooth sailing. Soon after the marriage, we discovered I had a physical imperfection that I didn’t know beforehand. My father-in-law paid a lot of money for the best doctors to try and cure me, but they weren’t able to. One great doctor admitted that there was no known cure. My father-in-law asked me to divorce his daughter, and I obliged.
I became depressed. First, a broken shidduch, now a divorce, not to mention my physical problem. My life was in shambles, and I went to live in the hekdesh (a communal home for the poor, homeless, and poor travelers.)
Someone who knew me from my teenage years recognized me in the hekdesh and was shocked. He said, ‘How did you end up here? You have so much potential; you’re a great scholar. What happened to you?’ I told him my story. Soon afterward, this man returned to the hekdesh. ‘I have a suitable shidduch for you because I know someone with the same medical problem as you.’
The host continued relating his story to the Vilna Gaon: “We met, and we ended up marrying. After our wedding, she told me, ‘You were born with a physical ailment, but I was born healthy. I developed my physical ailment later in my life.’ She told me she was once engaged to marry a Torah scholar, but her father lost his money, and the shidduch was called off. She became depressed and ill and developed this ailment.
I asked her some more questions about her first shidduch and discovered that I was her first fiance. So you see,” he said to the Vilna Gaon, “my wife became ill because of me. Doesn’t she deserve to be served coffee before me?”
The Vilna Gaon said, “If I came here only to hear this story, it would also be worthwhile!” He was very happy to hear this story because it demonstrates Hashem’s Hand in shidduchim. When a shidduch is destined to be, it will happen.