cycle of life: one generation goes and another comes. Abraham
and Sarah give way to Yitzchak and Rivka. After 127 full
years Sarah dies and her devoted husband Avraham Aveinu
goes to great lengths to ensure she has a proper resting
place. After the mourning period is over it is time to ensure
that Yitzchak will have a partner who, together with him, will
ensure that the traditions of Abraham and Sarah are passed
to the next generation. After fulfilling the parental responsibility
to marry off one's child Abraham is no longer mentioned
in the Torah even though he lived for another 38 years.
Abraham after Sarah is no longer is "worthy" of mention in the Torah.
Choosing the right partner was and is no easy task. Abraham gave his servant explicit instructions regarding the future wife of Yitzchak. She was not to come from the people of Cannan but rather should come from the birthplace of Abraham. This requirement has perplexed our commentaries. After all if the people of Cannan had not yet accepted monotheism neither had the people in Abraham's place of birth. Surely the family of Mamre - a friend of Abraham who lived in Cannan was no worse than that of Lavan and Betuel. Wasn't Abraham commanded to leave his homeland and family? Why does he go back to them for a shidduch?
Rabbeinu Nissim of Gerondi (14th century Spain) explains that there is a fundamental difference between a flawed belief system and flawed character traits. The former is external to the actual person whereas the latter defines the person. Ideology can be taught, philosophic mistakes can be corrected and opinions and beliefs change all the time. Recent Jewish and world history shows how fluid belief systems are. Throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century thousands of Jews rejected the traditional ways of their parents. Our generation has thankfully witnessed many children returning to authentic Jewish living rejecting the unobservant lifestyle of their parents.
Character, on the other hand, explains the Ran is literally absorbed in the genes. It is ingrained and changing even one trait takes enormous effort, willpower, training and vigilance. When one displays anger, hatred, vengeance or engages in gossip there are physiological changes to the body which leave an indelible impression upon us and upon our children both "genetically" and psychologically. Character traits are more often than not passed down through the genes into succeeding generations. The apple truly does not fall far from the tree. Hence even those Jews who rejected the belief system of their parents by and large did not, could not, reject their social conscience. Tzedakah, fighting for the downtrodden, community involvement, is still thank G-d common even amongst the "non observant". When the Talmud teaches that if a person who is not full of mercy, loving kindness and humility claims to be Jewish they are not to be believed it is expressing not only a moral obligation but a "biological reality". Could it really be that after so many generations of chesed practised by Jews that it did not rub off on you?
The Cannanites were not only idol worshippers but morally flawed. "According to the deeds of the land of Cannan you shall not do" (Leviticus 18:3). There degenerative character as seen in Sdom scared Abraham. He felt that his family while idol worshippers were not as morally corrupt. False beliefs are not something to be afraid of. People can be convinced of their intellectual errors. Even if unsuccessful it is only an ideological rift which must not lead to rejection of the person. However a morally corrupt person is to be avoided lest they influence us.
We read story after story about our "founding patriarchs and matriarchs". It is through these stories that we see the emerging Jewish people laying the foundations for a nation devoted to charity, hospitality, sacrifice, and unfortunately brotherly infighting. It is only by reinforcing the positive traits that we can then accept the Torah. Derech Eretz Kadma Le Torah. Proper character development is the prerequisite to Torah. Shabbat Shalom!