Vol. 5 No.5
Parshas Chayei Soroh
There are few stories in Tenach as charming and as moving as that of Eliezer's mission to find a wife for Yitzchok. Once Avrohom had put paid to Eliezer's personal interest and had extracted from him an oath that he would not return Yitzchok to Choron, but would search for a wife there and bring her back to Cana'an, he gave him no further instructions, but left his slave with a carte blanche on setting about doing so. And Eliezer in turn, used a most unconventional approach towards fulfilling his mission. He simply stopped by a well and proceeded to pray, expecting the girl that he sought, to come running at his request - and she did! Considering that Chazal have forbidden us to rely on miracles, one might have expected Eliezer to take more practical steps towards finding the right wife for Yitzchok. Why did he not do so?
The Torah reckons the four hundred years from the birth of Yitzchok, as years of golus "living in a strange land", even though it was only Ya'akov's children who actually suffered golus in its literal sense. True, Yaakov spent many years in exile, but even he lived most of his life in Eretz Cana'an. Avrohom, once he entered Eretz Yisroel, spent only a very short time in Egypt; and as for Yitzchok, he never left Eretz Yisroel. So, it is at first difficult to see why the Torah should include these 190 years in the period of golus?
Chazal describe as yisurim, someone who puts his hands into the wrong pocket to take out a purse. It is a nuisance and an inconvenience. We may safely assume this to apply principally to tzadikim, since it is they, more than anyone else, who would consider such an exercise a waste of precious time and effort, as they are the ones who count every second and measure every movement. Consequently, the bigger the tzaddik, the smaller the inconvenience necessary to be termed 'yisurim'.
And so it is with the golus; the real golus may well have begun in Egypt, but the slight and often annoying incidents which the Ovos had to suffer in Cana'an, incidents which interfered with their tranquil existence, denying them the peace of mind to serve Hashem undisturbed in their own homeland, were thus deemed "golus" for such great tzadikim. For anybody else, this would not have been called golus, but for these great tzadikim, is was.
When Chazal forbade us to rely on miracles, insisting that we make the necessary physical effort to achieve our ambitions, they did not determine the amount of effort that we need to make, nor which form that effort should take. That depends very much upon the individual. Thus a person with less bitochon, will think he needs to expend more effort and to spend much time and energy in achieving his goal, while the person with more bitochon will require less. Avrohom Ovinu, whose faith and trust in Hashem were implicit, found that no more 'hishtadlus' was necessary on his part than to send Eliezer to Choron with instructions to return with a wife for Yitzchok. Eliezer, on his part, decided that, for lack of further instructions, all he needed to do was to turn to Hashem in prayer.
As long as a man places his trust in G-d and does what he has to do, G-d will never let him down - "Blessed be the man that places his trust in Hashem, for Hashem (will realise that trust and) will become his fortress!" (Tehilim 40:5)
What better proof do we have than that of Eliezer, who applied maximum faith and minimum effort, to find the right wife for Yitzchok - and Hashem responded favourably.
Yet there is another way of explaining Eliezer's simplistic approach to what is normally a complex issue. And this approach underlines not so much Eliezer's faith in Hashem, as his faith in his master Avrohom. Avrohom had assured him that Hashem would send his Angel to guide him. (24:7)
It would therefore seem fair to say that armed with the knowledge that he would be guided by an Angel, he considered any effort on his part to be redundant. Therefore, he decided to make no 'hishtadlus' at all, but to do the one thing that Yaakov would do later, when travelling the same route, even after G-d had promised to guard him - he prayed to Hashem for success. He did so, with the sure knowledge that the Angel would do the rest.
Parshas Chayei Soroh
Avrohom the Diplomat
Now that the B'nei Cheis had promised Avrohom that no man would withhold his grave from him, why did Avrohom find it necessary to specifically ask for Efron, asks the Chofetz Chayim?
He wanted the Me'oras ha'Machpeilah? Then he should have taken Soroh straight there and buried her. Why did he need Efron's direct consent?
Avrohom Ovinu, he replies, was an astute man, who knew exactly with whom he was dealing. As long as the promise was no more than a communal one, it was worth nothing, since each person would turn round and pass the buck on to the next man. He knew that the only way to ensure that the promise was kept, was by pinpointing the owner and placing the entire onus on his shoulders (and that, he subtly did in public, in front of all the inhabitants of the town, leaving the townspeople - who had just assured him that nobody would withhold the plot of land of his choice - no option but to agree, and Efron with no chance of going back on his word).
One Hand Washes the Other
The Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer describes how (in last week’s Parshah),when the angels came to visit Avrohom, he went to get them three bulls, one of the bulls ran away, and Avrohom gave chase. The bull led him into the Me'oras ha'Machpeiloh. He saw there a great light, and discovered that Odom and Chavah were buried at that spot. It was then that Avrohom decided that that is where he and Soroh would be buried.
That explains how he came to know about the Me'oras ha'Machpeiloh and why, no sooner had the B'nei Cheis made him their offer, than he was ready with his answer - he would take the Me'oras ha'Machpeiloh.
Interestingly, it was whilst he was busy performing a supreme act of chesed with his visitors, that he made the discovery that would later enable him to perform the greatest chesed of all - the chesed shel emes, with his wife Soroh - because one mitzvah leads to another.
The Three Special Locations
The whole of Eretz Yisroel was given to the Ovos as a gift, in addition to which, they captured most of the land by the sword. Yet there are three locations in Eretz Yisroel which are special, writes Rabeinu Bachye (apparently basing his statemment on R. Sa'adya Gaon's words): Chevron, Har G'rizim and Har Eivol (Sh'chem) and Har ha'Moriah (the location of the Beis ha'Mikdosh), and they are special because they were all bought, and paid for in cash (by Avrohom, Ya'akov and Dovid respectively).
Ho'Rav Chavel, points out in his footnotes, that the Medrash Rabba, who quotes the locations slightly differently, adds that these are three places, more than any other, which even the non-Jews have to admit are categorically ours - beyond the slightest shadow of doubt.
It makes you think, doesn't it?
The Ba'al ha'Turim writes that there is a 'vov' missing from Efron (just before Sheini), because he was a 'ra ayin' (a miserly person who begrudged others what they had).
Why a 'vov'?
The Kli Yokor connects this with a Chazal in Bovo Basra (which we quoted a few weeks ago): A person who gives tzedokoh is blessed with six b'rochos. So it follows, he adds, that a 'ra ayin' who does not give tzedokoh, deprives himself of those six b'rochos. Hence the missing 'vov' in Efron.
With this, he also explains what Chazal say about the posuk "tov ayin hu yevoroch" (as if it had a 'vov'), don't read 'yevoroch' (he will be blessed), but 'yevorech' (without the ‘vov’ - meaning ‘he will bless’), say Chazal, meaning that the ba'al ha'bayis (the generous one, who gave of his food to the guests), should bensch.
In fact, says the Kli Yokor, both words are correct - 'yevorech' on account of his generosity the ba'al habayis should bensch, and 'yevoroch' (which has the sound of a 'vov') he will be blessed - with the six b'rochos that a good-hearted person himself receives for giving tzedokoh.
Efron = 'Ra ayin' = 400
On four occasions, writes the Kli Yokor, Tenach deals with begrudging people who were 'ra ayin' and each occasion is closely connected with the number 400.
1. Efron, who was a 'ra ayin', and who took 400 shekel.
2. Yosef's brothers, who envied their brother Yosef's silken shirt, and who subsequently suffered 400 years' golus in Egypt.
3. Eisov, who begrudged his brother Ya'akov the b'rochos that he received from his father Yitzchok, and who later came to meet him with 400 men.
4. Novol ha'Karmeli, who was a miserly man, and who behaved towards Dovid and his men - who had helped him in the past in no small measure - in a disgusting and miserly fashion. So Dovid attacked him with 400 men.
Eishel (refer to last week’s ‘Pearls’)
Last week, we wrote the story from the footnote in the Kol Eliyohu, in which the great Machnis Orach’s house burnt down, in spite of the tremendous amount of Hachnosas Orchim which he constantly performed.
We apologise for having omitted the punchline: that ‘Eishel’ minus the ‘Lamed’ = ‘Eish’!
THE MITZVOS OF TODAY
The Mitzvos Asei
All the mitzvos that apply nowadays - 77 mitzvos Asei and 194 Mitzvos Lo Sa'asei -
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.
1. To believe that there is a G-d - as the Torah writes in Sh'mos (20:2) "I am Hashem your G-d"! And that G-d created existence and all the worlds out of nothing, and that He personally supervises everything. This is the foundation of our religion. Someone who does not believe this, denies G-d and has no portion in Yisroel. It is essential that one fixes this in one's mind until he is fully convinced that it cannot be otherwise.
This mitzvah applies to men and women alike, at all times.
2. To unify G-d's Name, to believe with a perfect faith that He is one, and that He has no partner - as the Torah writes in Devorim (6:4) "Listen Yisroel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One!" This is the major principle of faith. Following the first principle of G-d's existence, one must believe with a perfect faith that He is one in totality. He is not a body, and those who are physical cannot fathom Him, neither does anything physical effect Him. There is no second to Him, and there is no G-d other than Him.
This mitzvah applies to men and women alike, at all times.
3. To love G-d with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's might - as the Torah writes in Devorim (6:5) "And you shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart" etc. The way to love Him is by reflecting on His (kind) deeds, until we understand Him to the best of our ability, and this arouse our hearts to love Him. One must direct all one's thought towards loving Hashem.
It is possible to love G-d to the extent that one gets to know about Him. The one is fully dependent upon the other. Therefore one is obligated to spend time and effort to study the sources that teach one about G-d's glory and to become thoroughly aquainted with them. (This can only refer to Torah-study, as the Sifri comments: "Ve'ohavto es Hashem" etc., and then "Ve'hoyu ha'd’vorim ho'eileh" - the love of Hashem comes only through being familiar with Torah).
Included in the mitzvah is to bring other (Jews) close to the service of Hashem, and to cause Him to be loved by others, like Avrohom Ovinu did, as the Torah writes in Bereishis (12:5) "and the souls which he made in Choron" (and also by means of one's refined and godly behaviour - as the Gemoro writes in Yuma 86a). (One's love of G-d should also cause one to hate those who hate Him, as Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (139:21) "How I hate those who hate You!" and to hate everything which is evil, because he also wrote there "Those who love G-d, hate evil").
This mitzvah too, applies to men and women alike, at all times.
About the Mitzvos
There are 248 'mitzvos asei' and 365 'mitzvos lo sa'asei'.
This is not just a fluke, nor is it purely symbolical. It is to teach us that time was created (together with the rest of the world), in order to serve Hashem. So every day announces "Serve G-d today, by controlling your actions and by not performing a sin today'.
And it is to teach us that man in his totality was created for the very same purpose (see last Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos) - So every limb cries out "Sanctify yourself by performing a mitzvah with me". Indeed, Chazal have taught us that one's body in the World to Come will be formed (or malformed) in accordance with the mitzvos that one performed (or did not perform) in this world.
As a result of this, the more mitzvos one performs, the more complete will one's body be in the World to Come, and the more care one applies to the performance of each mitzvah here, the more perfectly-formed will that limb be there!
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