ויאמר אברהם אל עבדו...כי אל ארצי ואל מולדתי תלך ולקחת אשה לבני ליצחק
[בראשית כד' ב'-ד']
And Avraham said to his servant…Rather, go to my land and my birthplace and take a wife for my son Yitzchak
The Nature of Eliezer’s Appointment
In this week’s Parsha we learn that Avraham appointed Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak. We find three opinions as to the Halachik nature of this appointment. Tosfos quotes from the beginning of Maseches Kalla that Eliezer was appointed and empowered to execute the initial stage of marriage-the Eirusin-on Yitzchak’s behalf. Consequently, says Tosfos, the Brachos which are recorded later included also the Brachos made upon Eirusin.
However, in Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer we find that the later Brachos were those that are made upon the final part of the marriage-Nissu’in. Accordingly, we must conclude that Eliezer was appointed to execute only the Nissu’in for Yitzchak.
However, as far as the simple understanding of the P’ssukim, it would seem that Eliezer was not Halachikally empowered on any level. Rather, Avraham simply instructed Eliezer to find Yitzchak a wife and bring her to Yitzchak. Yitzchak would then marry her on his own accord. As far as the interpretation from Maseches Kallah, Tosfos says that it would seem that Chazal did not mean to be giving a real interpretation of the Passuk.
We can bring support to this approach from the description in Bereishis 24:67:
ויקח את רבקה ותהי לו לאשה
And he [Yitzchak] took Rivka and she became a wife to him
According to this interpretation, these two expressions are understood. The first expression-ויקח-taking-is described in Maseches Kiddushin as an expression of Eirusin. The second, ותהי לו לאשה-became his wife-is consequently a reference to Nissu’in.
Defining the Final Stage of Marriage-Nissu’in
We can bring additional support that Eliezer was not appointed to execute the final stage of marriage based on the following argument:
As I have written, the Halachik effects created by the act of Nissu’in are not the direct product of the actions of the groom. Rather, through the situation created by the Nissu’in act by the groom, the Halacha changes the status of the bride into a fully married lady. It is effected by the Halacha, not by the groom. Accordingly, it follows that a groom cannot appoint a messenger to carry out this act for him. This would support our understanding that Eliezer was not appointed for the act of Nissu’in.
The central proof for this understanding of Nissu’in is that the Gemara in Kiddushin has a discussion about one who does Eirusin on condition that he is not obligated in food, clothing, and relations. The problem is that these three things are only obligatory from Nisu’in and not from Eirusin. Making a stipulation in Eirusin should not be relevant.
The answer seems to be based on the above foundation; that Nissu’in is not the effect of the groom. Since Nissu’in is the consummation of the Halachik marital process it is therefore clear that whichever Halachik changes occur due to Nissu’in are the result of that which already took place in Eirusin. Therefore, one who wants to modify the Halachik structure of the marriage must do so by Nissu’in and not by Eirusin.
We can bring additional support to this understanding of Nissu’in by examining the sources of the concept of Nissu’in:
- The Ran says that the source is from the Possuk in Mattos regarding vows made by a girl after Nissu’in. The Halacha is that if a girl takes a vow between Eirusin and Nissu’in then it requires a joint decision by the husband and father of the lady to annul the vow. However, after Nissu’in are done, the Halacha is that it is solely the decision of the husband. The Torah describes the latter case as ואם בית אישה נדרה-“and if she vows in the house of her husband…” We see that the Torah’s description of Nissu’in is that of “being in her husband’ house.” This seems to be describing a situation; not an action. A girl who is in a situation of “being in her husbands’ home”-her vows are subject to the annulment of the husband.
- The Sifri, in describing those members of Kohen’s household who may eat Trumah, derives from the Possuk of כל טהור בביתך יאכל אתו-“all pure [people] in your house[hold] may eat it [Truma],” that a lady after Nissu’in may eat Truma. Again, we see the description of “being in the husbands’ home.”
Eliezer’s Appointment-Conclusion Thus Far
There is a strong argument against Eliezer having been appointed to accomplish Nissu’in. There is a smaller argument to say that he wasn’t even empowered for Eirusin.
Making the Marital Bracha after Marriage
If, however, we assume as the face value interpretation of Maseches Kallah, that Eliezer was indeed appointed to carry out Eirusin, we encounter the following problem. The Possuk which indicates the act of Eirusin seems to be 24:53, in which Eliezer gives gifts to Rivka. The Possuk which Maseches Kallah interprets as the Possuk of the marital blessing is Possuk 60. All Brachos on Mitzvos are made before the Mitzvah is performed. Even if one were to argue that the Torah is not necessarily written in chronological order that is only when it is describing different events in disconnected chapters. Within one flow of a story, which is in one Parsha, this rule does not apply. Is such a Bracha valid?
This is subject to an argument amongst the Rishonim. The Rambam, followed by the Shulchan Oruch, hold that one makes the blessing on marriage prior to the performance of Eirusin, and if it was said afterwards it is totally meaningless, due to the fact that the Mitzva is over.
However, the Ra’avad holds that since it is possible that she will reject to receive the money one only makes the Bracha after performing the Eirusin. This Mitzvah’s Bracha is an exception to the general rule.
The Rosh’s View on the Marital Bracha
The Rosh goes a step further. He says that the Bracha on Eirusin is not a Bracha on the Mitzva, rather it is a Bracha of general praise to Hashem. As we shall soon demonstrate, this makes it irrelevant whether the Bracha is said before or after Eirusin.
The question on the Rosh is that the wording of this Bracha is the same as other Brachas on Mitzvos-”Baruch Atah…Asher Kidshanu Bemitzvosav Vetzivanu”-[That You sanctified us with Your Mitzvos and commanded us] etc. How is it possible that it is classified differently?
However, we find three other clear cases where Brachos follow this formulation and are classified similarly.
- As far as this Bracha is concerned there are two arguments in favour of the Rosh. Firstly, the content of the Bracha is וציונו עַל הָעֲרָיוֹת, וְאָסַר לָנוּ הָאֲרוּסוֹת, וְהִתִּיר לָנוּ הַנְּשׂוּאוֹת [לָנוּ] עַל יְדֵי חֻפָּה בְּקִדּוּשִׁין-“He commanded us against illicit relations, forbade married woman to us, and permitted to us those that are married to us through Chuppah and Kiddushin.” None of this refers to a specific act. Secondly, the Rosh argues that Eirusin is not a Mitzva, rather it is just the act which removes the prohibition against having premarital relations. [The Rambam, on the hand, holds that Eirusin is a Mitzva.]
- The Taz, in line with the opinion of the Ritzbah, holds that Shechitah is not a Mitzva, rather it is necessary in order to permit the consumption of an unslaughtered animal. Consequently, says the Taz, the Bracha on Shechita is classified as a Bracha of praise and not as a Bracha on a Mitzva. This is despite the fact that the formulation of the Bracha is “Baruch…Asher Kidshanu BeMitzvosav Vetzivanu…”
- There is an argument amongst the Rishonim when the Bracha by a Bris of Baruch…Asher Kidshanu…Lehachniso BeBriso Shel Avraham Avinu is said. The Shulchan Aruch rules that it is said right before the Mila. However, the Rama, in accordance to Tosfos and the Rosh, rules that it is a Bracha of praise, and therefore there is no difference whether one makes it before or after the Mila. Again, we see that the formula does not necessarily mean that it is a Bracha on the Mitzva.
So we have a demonstration that the formulation is not a clear proof. Similarly, from what the Rosh said about Mila, we have proof that when it is general praise it does not matter whether it is before or after the event.
Eliezer’s Appointment-Conclusion So Far
According to the Ra’avad and the Rosh it is acceptable that Eliezer was a messenger, did Eirusin, and made the Bracha afterwards. However, according to the Rambam that one may not make a Bracha afterwards, one is forced to conclude that Eliezer was not a messenger, because making the Bracha after Eirusin is forbidden.
The Marital Bracha-The Rivash’s Approach
The Rivash says that one who does Eirusin through a messenger still needs to say the marital Bracha, since the messenger may not make this Bracha. However, it will look strange to an onlooker if one makes a Bracha without any prior act of Eirusin. Therefore, one needs to make another act of Eirusin and then say the Bracha. The reason that one may make this Bracha even though the act of Eirusin was done is because it is considered as if one is still doing the Mitzva until Nissu’in have been done.
This is similar to what Tosfos writes regarding Lulav; that as long as one has not completed the act of shaking the Lulav, even though one has already picked up the Lulav, one may still make the Bracha.
These words of the Rivash are especially understood in light of our earlier explanation of Nissu’in; that Nissu’in complete Eirusin. Therefore, in a sense, the Eirusin is actually not considered finished.
We see from the Rivash a principle regarding Brachos on Mitzvos. Optimally, these Brachos should be made prior to doing the Mitzva. However, if necessary, as long as the Mitzva is not yet complete one may still make the Bracha.
Eliezer’s Appointment-According to the Rivash
Since the Rivash holds that a messenger may not make a Bracha on Eirusin one is again forced to say that Eliezer was not a messenger at all.
The Bracha of a Messenger
So far we have seen that the Rivash holds that a messenger for Eirusin may not make a Bracha. However, Tosfos quoted from Maseches Kallah that Eliezer was a messenger and made the Bracha on Eirusin. What is the reasoning for each opinion?
In Shulchan Aruch and in the Magen Avraham we find that when one appoints a messenger to check for Chametz on his behalf the messenger makes a Bracha on this Mitzva. The Magen Avraham wonders how he can make this Bracha. He has no obligation to perform the Mitzva!
The Magen Avraham proves from Mila that even though the Mohel is not performing his Mitzva and is only a messenger of the father, even so he makes the Bracha on the Mitzva of Mila. So too, by checking for Chametz, the messenger will make the Bracha. What is the reasoning for this?
This is very difficult to understand. We never find that one can tell a messenger to make Brachos for oneself, or to Daven and say Shma for oneself.
One is forced to say that their intent is that since this messenger is a valid messenger on the Mitzva he also gets the ability to make the Bracha which is part of that Mitzva.
The Shulchan Oruch HoRav says that a messenger makes a Bracha because of the principle of Arvus. Because of the fact that if the one who sent him does not perform the Mitzva of destroying Chametz then he is held accountable, he also has a Mitzva to check for the senders’ Chametz. Therefore, he must make a Bracha on this Mitzva. The source of this principle, that one’s Mitzva is also another’s, is the Gemara in Rosh HaShana. The Gemara says that even though one has already made a Bracha like Kiddush, one may make it on behalf of another because of the principle of Arvus.
We find a similar application of the principle of Arvus by the Mishna Berura in his Sha’ar HaTziyun. The Mishna Berura says that in certain cases one may ask a non-Jew to travel on Yom Tov outside the permissible border of travel in order to obtain a Lulav. However, the Mishna Berura quotes the Magen Avraham that when one was negligent and did not buy a Lulav before Sukkos one’s friend who lives outside the permitted travel area may not send him a Lulav with a non-Jew. Their rationale is that it is forbidden to sin in order to bring merit to one’s fellow. In Sha’ar HaTziyun the Mishna Berura wonders why this is classified as sinning for the other’s sake. The principle of Arvus makes it that I am sinning for my own benefit. Since my fellow’s Mitzva is not being fulfilled therefore I have that Mitzva!
This is difficult to accept. Firstly, the entire concept of that which we know that one may not sin in order to bring merit to one’s friend would be meaningless according to this understanding of the principle of Arvus. Secondly, Arvus is always mentioned in context of preventing another’s sin.
Therefore it seems to me that Arvus does not make one’s fellows’ Mitzva into one’s own Mitzva. Rather, the reason is because the Bracha of a Mitzva goes on doing the act of a Mitzva and not on the fulfilment of a Mitzva. Therefore the messenger should make the Bracha.
Additionally, as I have proved in Minchas Osher, the reward for doing a Mitzva goes only to the messenger who actually did the act of the Mitzva, not to the sender. The sender has merely fulfilled the obligation. Therefore, the messenger makes the Bracha.
We can now understand the argument between Tosfos and the Rivash whether the messenger for marriage makes a Bracha. According to the Beis Meir and those with him, that it is part of becoming a messenger to fulfil this Mitzva, then certainly this messenger should make a Bracha. He will become their messenger for the Bracha.
However, according to my understanding, there should be no Bracha. Kiddushin is different from all other Mitzvos in regards to their being done through a messenger. Since the Mitzva of Kiddushin is in order to allow one to live with a woman as man and wife it is not an act of Mitzva when it is being done through any party who is not the bona fide husband.
It is due to this that the Gemara in Kiddushin says that the Mitzvos of Kavod Shabbos and Kiddushin are better when performed by oneself and not by one’s messenger. By other Mitzvos there is at least an act of Mitzva being done and rewarded even when done through a messenger. However, by these two Mitzvos there is no act of Mitzva being doing at all when one sends a messenger. Similar to Kiddushin, Kavod Shabbos requires that one personally honour Shabbos. When someone else prepares my Shabbos food they are not honouring my Shabbos.
 [Ed. Note] There are two Halachik stages of marriage. The initial stage is called Eirusin and the second stage is called Nissu’in. See Rambam Hilchos Ishus 1:1-2 and 10:1 for an introduction to these concepts. Briefly: The first stage of marriage is achieved by either giving money, giving a document, or having relations [Kiddushin 2a]. The main effect is that she is now considered one’s wife and there is capital punishment upon another having relations with her. The second stage is called Nissu’in. The act, according to the Rambam, [Ishus 10:1], is the bringing of the bride into the grooms’ domain. The effect of it is that he inherits her, contaminates himself for her if she dies if he’s a Kohen, and can annul her vows [Kiddushin 10a].
 Footnote 2
 Enumerated in footnote 7
[Ed. Note]: Halachik empowerment only allows for appointing another to effect a Halachik change on one’s behalf. It does not allow for another to become oneself. To illustrate, it is meaningless to appoint a Halachik messenger for Shechitah, for it is obvious that the effect of the animal becoming Kosher is not the effect of the slaughterer, rather the effect of the Halacha upon the completion of a correct act of slaughter. Cf. Minchas Osher quoted in footnote 11.
 The usage of a ring in the ceremony is a Minhag [see Tosfos Kiddushin 9a d”h Vehilchisa Shirai and Rama Even Ha’Ezer 27:1] and is not necessary in order to create Eirusin. All that is necessary is a Prutah’s worth, either in coins or goods.
 Ibid, see Rashi there.
 Compare, for example, to the Bracha on Tzitzis-”Baruch Atah… Vetzivanu Lehisatef BeTzitzis.”
 See footnote 16
 Orach Chaim 432:2
 [Ed. Note] Sotah 37b. Klal Yisrael are responsible for one another’s actions. We are held accountable if someone else’s Mitzva is not performed or if someone performs an Aveira and we could have prevented it.