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Parashat Hayey Sarah Genesis 23:1 - 25:18
D'VAR TORAH Praying for Luck By Elizabeth Dunsker
There is a problem in our Torah portion. It’s a theological quandary that I believe plagues us all at one time or another regardless of our real beliefs in God, and it’s widespread. It has to do with luck, chance, coincidence, and magical uncertainty. Our problem is the question of what this has to do with prayer.
On his way to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s servant arrives at a watering hole and offers this prayer, “Eternal One, God of my master Abraham, please bring me luck today, and do a kindness for my master Abraham” (Genesis 24:12). Luck? Asking God for luck? What is that? Isn’t luck by definition arbitrary? Luck comes and goes, there’s no merit in it. One does not earn luck or predict luck, one cannot depend on luck: luck is inconsistent at best. How is it even reasonable to pray to God for such a thing?
Now, in truth, the word here is hakreih, which doesn’t mean “to bring luck” exactly, it more literally means, “to bring something [good],” but the sense our translation leaves, that the servant here is asking for luck to come his way, feels accurate. The servant prays for a sign so that he will know when he finds the girl who was bashert or “meant to be.”
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