“Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his household who controlled all that was his (Bereishit, 24:2).” Although the straightforward meaning of the phrase “who controlled all that was his” is certainly that Eliezer ran Abraham’s household, the Sages interpreted it as a reference to a different aspect of their relationship. Eliezer wasn’t just a household servant, he was actually the star pupil of his great teacher. “Rabbi Elazar said: ‘who controlled all that was his’ – He mastered the teachings of his master. It teaches us that Eliezer the servant of Abraham was actually an elder scholar that studied in Abraham’s academy (Bavli, Yoma 28b).”
We usually think of Abraham as an original thinker, a religious pioneer, and exceptionally kind and righteous man. From the Torah’s description of the head of Abraham’s household, another aspect of this great man’s persona emerges. A full sixty years earlier, Eliezer was already in charge of his master’s home and a serious student: The phrase “damesek Eliezer” in Bereishit 15:2 is also understood by the Sages as a reference to the servant’s studiousness, that he “drew out and drank the teachings of his master. (ibid)”
Abraham’s life work was to continue to deepen his understanding of the God of the Heavens, the kindness that He bestowed on mankind, and how to live a life of righteousness and virtue. The fact that he also devoted decades of his life to benevolently passing on the all of the wisdom that he had amassed adds a dimension with a very practical lesson.
Is there any reason everyone can’t be a teacher of some sort? If we have some type of insight, wisdom, or experience that can lift up someone’s spirits or help them live more effectively or purposefully, why not share it? Or, if even if we feel that our know-how is not in the spiritual realm as Abraham’s was, we can share and teach practical skills that can be helpful to someone. My grandparents taught me all kinds of skills that I still remember today and pass on to my children. One woman recently told me that she visits people with techno-phobia in their homes and teaches them the basics of computer and Internet use. In the Youtube era, you don’t even have to know anyone to be a teacher. There are thousands of videos teaching everything from how to play guitar to how to replace a doorknob, aside from plenty of Torah content. What can you teach?
Our great-grandfather Abraham is our role model for many forms of kindness. His role as an educator should also be on our list of his traits to emulate, in one way or another.