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Vol. 10 No. 5
Chayim Ya'akov ben Sh'lomoh Yitzchak ha'Levi z.t.l
Parshas Chayei Sarah
In Parshas Lech-Lecha, Rabeinu Bachye, commenting on the two Pesukim there that deal with Yishmael (17:20 and 16:12) comments: "And I will bless him (Yishmael)" on account of your prayer (16:18), though not because of the covenant of Yitzchak. "He will father twelve princes", with reference to his twelve sons, mentioned at the end of Chayei Sarah ... . The reason that the Torah writes 'twelve princes' rather than the more common 'twelve nations', is to hint at their level of prominence and unusually high birthrate (since "Nesi'im" is rooted in the word 'Hisnas'us' which has connotations of elevation and distinction), in keeping with G-d's B'rachah here.
But the word also has connotations of clouds (since it is missing a 'Yud'), and it refers to Yishmael's ultimate dissipation, much in the same way as clouds disperse and vanish from the sky. In other words, they may flourish at first, but eventually they will disappear like the clouds...
The Torah is teaching us here that Yishmael will be strong at first, but will later become weak, just as the Angel told Hagar "And he will be a wild man, (to begin with) he will overcome everyone, but they will overcome him" (in the end). This is reminiscent of the Ba'al ha'Turim, who comments at the end of this Parshah that when at the end of days, Yishmael will fall, Mashi'ach ben David, a descendent of Yitzchak, will rise.
"And I will make them a great nation". It took two thousand, three hundred and thirty-three years for this prophesy to materialize (from the b'ris of Avraham in 2047) until the spread of Islam in 4384, says Rabeinu Chananel. And even though that delay was through no fault of theirs, they waited patiently throughout this period, until eventually, their time arrived. We, he concludes, should take our cue from them, in the knowledge that our time will come too.
Note, that whereas Rabeinu Bachye (based on the Zohar) attributes Yishmael's B'rachah to Avraham's prayers, the Ramban attributes it to Sarah's harsh treatment of Hagar, as is implied by the Pasuk (16:12). One way or the other, the catalyst that caused Yishmael's success was something that one of the Avos did.
The commentaries ask, considering that Yishmael was older than Yitzchak, how Avraham could possibly bequeath all his property to Yitzchak, in contravention of the prohibition of giving away the portion of the firstborn to anyone else.
Some answer that since Avraham gave Yitzchak the property during his lifetime, the prohibition did not apply. Others point out that Avraham was acting on Sarah's instructions, which G-d Himself had endorsed. And it goes without saying that Divine instruction supercedes Torah law (which in any case, the Avos adhered to only voluntarily).
Perhaps the most innovative answer however, is that of the Or ha'Chayim (who does not pose the question directly). The Or ha'Chayim (16:5) points out that, as opposed to Bilhah and Zilpah, whom Rachel and Le'ah released, Hagar remained Sarah's slave as long as she (Sarah) lived, and Avraham only condescended to take her as a 'wife', because, here too, G-d instructed him to do so.
Consequently, Yishmael was a slave too (for the offspring of a slave remain slaves forever). Yes, the Or ha'Chayim concludes, Halachically, the descendants of Yishmael are our slaves. In that case, the question of inheritance is meaningless, since a slave does not inherit.
At the end of the Parshah, the Torah relates that, Yitzchak and Yishmael buried Avraham. When Yitzchak dies in Parshas Toldos, the Torah records that Eisav and Ya'akov buried him. To explain the order in which the names appear, the Gemara in Bava Basra draws a distinction between Yishmael, who did Teshuvah, and Eisav, who did not. Yishmael ultimately acknowledged Yitzchak's supremacy, whereas Eisav never forgot what Ya'akov 'did to him', insisting until his dying day that he was the firstborn.
The Meshech Chochmah explains that Yishmael's Teshuvah was 'Midah ke'neged Midah', by citing the Seforno (21:9), who explains Yishmael's mocking of Yitzchak there differently than Rashi. Based on the prevalent theory of that time, he believed that Yitzchak was the son of Avimelech (see opening Rashi in Toldos), and that is what he was mocking Yitzchak about.
The fact that he now gave Yitzchak the honour of leading the funeral procession, was a clear proof, that his Teshuvah on that score was complete.
Strangely, Yishmael's descendants did not follow in his footsteps. They appear blissfully unaware that their founding father himself, fully agreed with his brother's title deeds to both the birthright and presumably all that goes with it, including his rights to Eretz Yisrael. To be sure, if Yishmael is aware of his descendants claims that it is we who falsified the words of our holy Torah, and that he is Avraham's true heir, he will be turning in his grave.
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(adapted from the P'ninei Torah)
Everything is Good
"The years of the life of Sarah" (23:1).
'They were all equal for the good', comments Rashi.
What Rashi means, of course, is that Sarah's goodness was constant; not like most people, whose life comprises good days and bad days. Their level, to a large degree, is determined by the balance between the two, so that those with more good days than bad ones form the group of Tzadikim (the more good days, the bigger the Tzadik). Whilst those with more bad days than good make up the group of Resha'im (the more bad days, the bigger the Rasha).
Sarah was different; she utilised every moment of her life in the service of G-d. There were no bad days!
The Rebbe, Reb Zushe however, seems to have understood Rashi differently. He explains 'all equal for the good' to mean that Sarah lived a good life, to the extent that she never experienced a bad day. And so he asks how this is possible. Everybody has his 'pekel tzaros' to contend with, some big tzaros, and some small ones. But how can anyone possibly live a live a life that is Tzaros-free?
The answer, he explains, lies in Sarah's attitude. Some people complain about the slightest problem, others only about big problems. Sarah accepted whatever G-d did with love. She never saw any cause for complaint, so it was quite true to say that all her years were for the good.
Chasidim tell the story of Rebbi Shmelke from Nikolsberg and his brother, Reb Pinchas, the Ba'al Hafla'ah. They once asked their Rebbe, the Maggid from Mesritch to explain to them a Gemara in B'rachos. The Mishnah there explains that one is obligated to bless Hashem for the bad things just as one blesses Him for the good ones, and the Gemara, explaining the Mishnah, says that one must accept even the bad things with joy. How is it possible, they asked, to recite a B'rachah over bad happenings with joy?
The Maggid sent them to the Yid who was sitting behind the oven, Reb Zushe, to ask him what he thought about the matter. Bear in mind that Reb Zushe was as poor as they come, with not a cent to his name. Anyway, they did what their Rebbe bade them and put the question to him.
'How should I know?', was his reply. 'Only someone who has actually suffered in his life can know the answer to your question. As for me, thank G-d, I have never suffered in all my life. As a result, I have not the slightest idea what 'bad' means'.
It's the Extra Bit that Counts
"And she will say 'Drink, and I will water your camels too', that is the woman ... " (24:14).
Were the woman to offer him to drink, that in itself may well constitute a good deed, but who would know whether her offer would be genuine. Who would know whether she would only agree to supply him with water because she could not refuse the request of a great man (which Eliezer was, and probably looked too).
Eliezer would only know for sure that Rifkah really was the true Ba'alas Chesed that he was looking for, once she volunteered to perform a kindness for which he had not asked her. And what's more, knowing the amount of water traveling camels store in their humps, Eliezer could hardly have chosen a better way of testing Rifkah.
Eyes for Money
"And Lavan ran to the man ... " (24:29).
'Why on earth did he run', asks Rashi?
The Torah itself gives the answer, he replies, when it continues "And it was when he saw the rings ... ".
It was the vast amount of money that he must have gathered from Rifkah, the man had with him, which attracted him like a magnet. 'He set his sights on the money', and went racing out.
The words Rashi uses to convey this are 'Nosan einov be'Mamon', which translate literally as 'He gave his eyes for money'. In that case, we might explain the initial question, based on Chazal, who have taught that taking large steps reduces one's eyesight by one five-hundredth. That being so, one may ask, why did Lavan run? Running requires taking large steps, and large steps reduce one's eyesight?
The answer is, Eliezer came with a lot of money, and there are some people who will give away anything for money - even their eyes. Such a man was Lavan (P'ninei Torah).
Oh No You Don't!
"And I asked her 'whose daughter are you?' ... and I placed the nose-rings on her nose and the bracelets on her arms" (24:47).
Eliezer deliberately changed the order of events, explains Rashi. With his deep faith in Hashem, he had placed the rings first, and asked her her identity afterwards. But he figured that Besuel and company would never have understood that. So he changed the order, to avoid having to answer their questions.
The Chacham Tzi however, explains it a little differently. He quotes the Gemara in Beitzah (20a), which differentiates between a case where Reuven leaves instructions that, upon his death, four hundred Zuz should be given to Shimon and he should marry his daughter, and one where he reverses the order. In the first case, Shimon can claim the four hundred Zuz whether he marries Reuven's daughter or not; whereas in the second, he will only receive the four hundred Zuz if and when he marries Reuven's daughter.
Similarly here, Eliezer figured that if he were to inform Lavan and Besuel what he really did, they would keep the valuables and refuse to give him Rifkah. So he reversed the order, telling them that he had placed the ring and the bracelets only after asking her who she was. In that way, he conveyed the message that if they gave him Rifkah, they could keep the rings, but if not, they would have to return them.
Changing His Status
"And Rifkah and her girls arose. They rode on the camels and went after the man. And the slave took Rifkah and he went" (24:61).
A number of times in this Parshah Eliezer's status seems to change from slave to man and from man to slave. But in one Pasuk!?
The Seifer ha'Nosen Imrei Shafer cites the Gemara in Kesubos (48). The Gemara there explains that a girl remains in her father's domain until she enters the chupah. If the father's messengers accompany those of the husband, she still remains in her father's domain. The moment however, the former hand her over to the latter, she is in the domain of her husband.
Here too, as long as Rifkah remained in her father's domain, Eliezer was (as far as Rifkah was concerned) 'the man'. And this was the case even after she had left her father's cpmpany and gone with Eliezer, because she was still in the company of the girls. The moment however, that her girls returned, and handed her over to Eliezer, he became her slave. That is why the Pasuk concludes "And the slave took Rivkah".
The Love Comes Later
"And Yitzchak brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and she became his wife and he loved her" (24:67).
Some people, says Rebbi Moshe Cheifetz, fall in love with a beautiful woman, and they marry her. Later, after the excitement has worn off, the love turns to hatred, and the marriage flounders.
Yitzchak married Rifkah first, and the love developed later.
The first kind of love, which is superficial, is unlikely to last, partly perhaps, because, when the man sees other women more beautiful than his wife, his original feelings dissipate. The second kind of love, on the other hand, which is borne out of a shared life and shared ideals, will grow together with the man's devotion towards his wife (as will the wife's towards her husband).
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THE DINIM OF ERETZ YISRAEL
AND ITS MINHAGIM
Translated from the Seifer by Rav Kalman Kahana z.l.
The Prohibition of Selling Land to a Gentile
1. One may not sell houses and fields to a gentile in Eretz Yisrael, even as a short-term sale. And this prohibition extends to anything that is attached to the ground, such as a tree or standing crops.
One may however, sell him the latter, on the express condition that he cuts it down. It is also permitted to rent them houses, but not fields.
A A A
The Dinim and Minhagim of Eretz Yisrael
1. It is the Minhag in Eretz Yisrael not to wear Tefilin on Chol-ha'Mo'ed Pesach and Sukos.
2. Someone who lives in a hotel in Eretz Yisrael, is exempt from putting up a Mezuzah up to thirty days. One is however, obligated to put one up immediately when renting from a Jew, on account of 'Yishuv Eretz Yisrael' (the Mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael).
If one rents a house from a gentile, or if one borrows a house even from a Jew, he is exempt from putting up a Mezuzah for up to thirty days.
3. During the summer, one says 'Morid ha'Tal' (in the same place as one says 'Mashiv ha'ruach ... ' in the winter). One recites Tefilas Tal before Musaf of the first day of Pesach, and begins saying 'Morid ha'Tal' at Musaf. Those who do not recite Tefilas Tal, should at least announce 'Morid ha'tal', before Musaf. Similarly, it is customary to say Tefilas Geshem on Shemini Atzeres before Musaf.
4. In Eretz Yisrael, one begins to recite 've'Sein tal u'matar ... ' at Ma'ariv on the seventh of Mar-Cheshvan. A visitor from Chutz la'Aretz, who happens to be in Eretz Yisrael when it is recited, should say it then too, even though the time to recite it in Chutz la'Aretz has not yet fallen due.
Someone from Eretz Yisrael who has already begun to say it and who travels to Chutz la'Aretz, should continue to do so, even though they have not yet begun to say it there. And the same applies if he left Eretz Yisrael before the seventh of Mar-Cheshvan, but he intends to return home within a year. If he does not, then he begins saying it like the people in Chutz la'Aretz. However others maintain that a ben Eretz Yisrael who travels to Chutz la'Aretz before the seventh of Mar-Cheshvan, must stick to the local Minhag, even if he intends to return home within a year.
5. It is Minhag Eretz Yisrael (even Nusach Ashkenaz),to say 'Ein k'Elokeinu' and 'Pitum ha'Ketores' every morning after Shachris.
6. If someone forgot to separate Chalah in Eretz Yisrael, on Erev Shabbos or Yom-tov, he is not permitted to leave over a piece from which he will separate Chalah after Shabbos or Yom-tov (as one does in Chutz la'Aretz). Consequently, one should take special care every Erev Shabbos and Yom-tov, not to forget to separate Chalah. If one did, it is still possible to rectify it on Shabbos or Yom-tov. However, it is best to consult a Rov and follow whatever procedure he prescribes.
7. Some say that when concluding the second B'rachah of Birchas ha'Mazon in Eretz Yisrael after having eaten bread made from local wheat, one should conclude 'al ha'Aretz ve'al mezonosehah' (though this minhag is not prevalent).
8. Some say that when one recites the B'rachah Achas Me'ein Sheva after having eaten cake, one concludes 'al ha'Aretz ve'al michyosoh', after wine, 'al ha'Aretz ve'al p'ri gafnoh' and after fruit, 'al ha'Aretz ve'al peirosehoh' . And one makes the same change in the word prior to the B'rachah. This Minhag today is widespread with regard to the B'rachah after fruit and wine, but is not prevalent with regard to cake.
9. In Eretz Yisrael, the Minhag is not to say 'Baruch Hashem Le'olam Amen ve'Amen' in Ma'ariv.
10. The vast majority of Shuls do not recite Kidush on Friday night.
11. Those who say 'Bameh Madlikin' on Friday night, say it before Ma'ariv (and not afterwards, as is customary in Chutz la'Aretz).
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