Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 15   No. 5


This issue is sponsored le'Iluy Nishmas
by an anonymous donor
and
l'Iluy Nishmas
Chaim Ezriel ben Yosef Halevi

Parshas Chayei-Sarah

My Land & My Birthplace

When Avraham issued instructions to Eliezer to go and search for a wife for his son, Yitzchak, he told him to go to 'his land and his birthplace'. Unklus translates this literally, and the Ibn Ezra goes one step further, interpreting them as Charan (where he was currently living), and Ur Kasdim (where he was born), respectively. Incidently, the Ibn Ezra concurs with the opinion of Rashi, that Avraham was born in Ur Kasdim. According to the Ramban, his birthplace was Charan, and of all the family, only Haran was born in Ur Kasdim.

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Targum Yonasan and the Rashbam both disagree with the Ibn Ezra. According to them, "Moladti" refers to his family, to which he confined Eliezer's search. The difficulty with this is that the Pasuk ought then to have used the same wording as it uses later, when Eliezer related the events to Lavan and his family. There, quoting Avraham, Eliezer uses the term "to the house of my father and to my family". The fact that Avraham said "to my land and to my birthplace" supports the explanation of the Ibn Ezra.

The Meshech Chochmah agrees with the Ibn Ezra in principle, though he interprets "my land" as Aram Naharayim (which is the equivalent of Charan). And he comments that by including his land he was hinting that Aram Naharayim too would end up in Yisrael's hands, which occurred when David captured Syria. (This is baffling however, as Syria is Aram Tzovah, as Rashi explains in a number of places, and not Aram Naharayim [which in fact, David never captured]).

Eliezer however, omitted any mention of his land when he repeated his experiences to Lavan and Besuel, in order not to arouse their anger.

He concedes that Avraham's family is perhaps hinted in the word "molad'ti", which explains why he told this to Lavan's family, but it was not an indispensable condition, to which he was bound to adhere.

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When Eliezer watched Rivkah drawing water for all his camels, and, mesmerized by her incredible kindness, realized that his prayers were about to be answered, Rashi comments that he watched with bated breath, because he did not know whether she was from Avraham's family or not. Nevertheless, he goes on to explain, so sure was he that Avraham's merit would stand him in good stead, that he asked her to which family she belonged only after having placed the jewellery that he had brought on her hands. And later, Rashi comments again that he switched the order of what he did when relating this incident to Lavan and his family. Clearly Rashi concurs with Targum Yonasan's interpretation of the opening Pasuk (that the wife that Eliezer chose had to be from Avraham's family).

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Now let us see how the Meshech Chochmah explains the Parshah. According to him, Avraham had never instructed Eliezer to go to his father's house or to his family, as we explained. That being so, when he stood at the well, and stipulated that the girl who would offer to water both him and his camels would be the girl for Yitzchak, there was nothing irregular about this at all. It was merely a matter of a Ba'alas Chesed being the right match for a son of Avraham, the Ba'al Chesed par excellence.

Consequently, there was nothing unusual about giving Rivkah the jewellery immediately, seeing as her family was not an issue, and he only added it later to complete the picture of Hashgachah (that G-d arranged even that), and not because it was an indispensable condition. So why, later, when he related the incident to Lavan and his family, did he change the order? That is because, in order to impress them with G-d's Hashgachah, he told them that Avraham had instructed him to go to his family. In that case, they would never have understood why he first gave her the jewellery and asked only afterwards. So he deliberately inverted the order of events.

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This explanation, says the Meshech Chochmah, will also dispense with the Kashya of Tosfos in Chulin (95b) who asks that, according to those who include witchcraft among the Mitzvos that a ben No'ach is obligated to observe, how could Eliezer perform Nichush (which is a branch of withcraft) at the well. However, according to the Meshech Chochmah's explanation, what Eliezer did does not fall under the category of Nichush.

Interestingly, the Ha'amek Davar interprets the Parshah in exactly the same way as the Meshech Chochmah does.

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Parshah Pearls

(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah & the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.)

Kind, Astute & a Diplomatic to Boot

"And the girl to whom I will say lower your pitcher and let me drink, and she will say 'Drink and I will water your camels too', she is the one that you have picked for Your servant Yitzchak" (24:14).

Eliezer wanted to test the girl, not only for her Midos, but also with regard to her intelligence. So what did he do? He asked her to let him drink directly from her pitcher, and then to watch and see what she would do with the water that remained in the pitcher. On the one hand, it would be wrong to take it home, for there was no way that she could know that Eliezer did not suffer from some contagious disease, which would in turn, contaminate the water. Whilst on the other, to pour it out, would be a slight on Eliezer.

The only sensible option was to offer to use the remaining water to water the camels, proving at one and the same time that she was both kind-hearted and intelligent.

Rivkah not only passed the test; she went one stage further, explains R. Yoshe Ber from Brisk. She said 'and I will also water the camels', but she did not stop there, he points out. She added 'until they have finished drinking', thereby indicating that she was not about to pour the water into the trough for the camels merely to avoid insulting the Eliezer. She was doing so because she was genuinely concerned for the well-being of the camels, seeing as she was even prepared to draw water again for their benefit.

She hid her true intention of not insulting Eliezer, says the Brisker Rav, with a cloak of additional Gemilas-Chesed.

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How a Servant of Avraham Davens!

"And he said 'I will not eat until I have spoken my words'; And he said 'Speak!' And he said 'I am the servant of Avraham' (24:33/34).

Based on these two Pesukim, they say jokingly, that when Lavan and Besuel served Eliezer and invited him to eat, he replied "I will not eat until I have spoken my words" (i.e. Davened). 'O.K.' they said to him, "Speak!" (Get on with it and Daven!), to which he replied "I am the servant of Avraham" (and I don't just Daven. I first make my preparations, for so Chazal have taught us - the early Chasidim used to wait an hour before actually Davenning, in order to Daven with the proper Kavanah).

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There Are Cana'anim and There Are Cana'anim

"Perhaps (Ulai) the woman will not want to follow me ?" (24:39).

The word "Ulai", Rashi explains, is written without a 'Vav', meaning 'to me', a hint that Eliezer had a daughter whom he had hoped would marry Yitzchak, but Avraham pointed out to him that his son was blessed, whilst he (and his daughter) were cursed, and the two were not fit for each other.

But how can that be, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.? Rashi himself cites the Medrash which explains that if the girl refused to accompany him back to Cana'an, then he should take a wife for Yitzchak from the daughters of Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei, who were Cana'anim, just like his daughter was?

And he answers a. that the curse of Cana'an had taken effect with regard to him, which was not the case with regard to the daughters of Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei, and b. Eliezer, according to the Medrash Rabah, was actually the son of Cana'an, making the curse that much more potent in his case.

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Leftovers from the Journey

"And he gave delicacies to her brother and her mother" (24:53).

Rashi explains that this refers to fruit from Eretz Yisrael that he had brought with him from Eretz Yisrael.

But how is that possible, asks the Alter Gerer Rebbe, when it is forbidden to take Eretz Yisrael fruit out of the country?

This is no problem, he answers, according to the Medrash which explains that Eliezer had K'fitzas ha'Derech, that on the day he left Eretz Yisrael he arrived in Charan. It therefore seems that he took fresh fruit with him for himself and his co-travelers to eat, whilst still in Eretz Yisrael. In the meantime however, he had K'fitzas ha'Derech, immediately upon setting out on the journey. Consequently, at least some of the fruit that he was now carrying, as they approached Charan, was fruit that was meant for the journey (to be eaten before they left the country), but that, now due to the miracle of K'fitzas ha'Derech, still remained even when they arrived in Eretz Yisrael.

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Eliezer Eved Avraham

Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer writes that Eliezer Eved Avraham was the head of Avraham's house. He was actually written down as a permanent slave, only as a reward for the kindness that he performed on behalf of Yitzchak, Avraham set him free, and G-d then rewarded him in this world and appointed him king. In fact, he became Og Melech ha'Bashan.

But how can that be, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., considering that Og was a Rasha, whom Moshe eventually killed, whereas Eliezer was a Tzadik?

Moreover, in Masechtas Sofrim, Eliezer is listed as one of the nine people who went alive into Gan Eden. It appears that Yitzchak had good reason to suspect Eliezer of having raped Rivkah, and when he discovered that his suspicions were ill-founded, he followed the Halachah and gave him a blessing that he would enter Gan Eden alive, a blessing that was later realized. One must therefore say that there were two Og Melech ha'Bashans, one the Rasha that we know, the other, Eliezer Eved Avraham, who was a Tzadik. In any case, all the Kings of Bashan were called Og.

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Marrying an Egyptian Woman

"And he took a woman whose name was Keturah" (25:1).

Keturah was alias Hagar (see Rashi), who was the daughter of Paroh, King of Egypt. That being the case, it is difficult to understand how Avraham, who kept the entire Torah, could marry her, seeing as the Torah permits only a third generation Egyptian to marry into the K'hal Hashem.

(It is unclear why the Da'as Zekeinim M.T poses the question here, and not in Parshas Lech-Lecha, when Avraham married Hagar the first time.)

And he answers either that Avraham himself was a Ger, and a Ger is permitted to marry someone who is Pasul, or that Avraham was commanded by G-d to marry her.

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An Unusual Sort of Gift

"And to the sons of his concubines Avraham gave gifts" (25:6).

Based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin (91a) the Da'as Zekeinim explains that he gave the power to mention G-d's explicit Name ('Havayah') even be'Tum'ah (i.e. when they are Tamei), without coming to any harm. Indeed, to this day, he says, there are Arabs who are able to do this. I do not understand this however, as a gentile is not subject to Tum'ah, min ha'Torah.

R. Moshe (one of the Ba'alei Tosfos) however, queries how a Tzadik like Avraham could possibly teach the Name of Hashem to Resha'im?

He therefore explains, citing R. Ya'akov b'R. Nachman, that what Avraham handed to his sons was not the Holy Name of Hashem, but the names of Sheidim (demons), whom it is possible to make swear via the masters who control them, to do anything that one asks of them. According to this explanation, the word 'be'Tum'ah' refers to the impure spirit to which they are connected (as the Gemara explains in Chagigah 3b).

In fact, this explanation is hinted in the word "Matanos", which is written minus a 'Vav', and which is equivalent in Gematriyah to 'Limdam Lehashbi'a ha'Sheidim' (he taught them to make the Sheidim swear).

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM TARGUM YONASAN

"And Lavan mistook him (Eliezer) for Avraham, and he said 'Come, the one who is blessed by Hashem! Why do you stand outside, when I have cleared the house of Avodah-Zarah and prepared a place for the camels' " (24:31).

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE BA'AL HA'TURIM

And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her ("ve'livkosoh") 23:2.

"Ve'livkosoh" is written with a small 'Kaf', because Avraham did not cry much for her. This is either because she died at a ripe old age, softening the pain, which would have been far more acute had she died younger, or because she once said "May Hashem judge between us" (see 16:5), and it is because she invited the Midas ha'Din that she died before Avraham. This is considered a form of suicide, and one is generally forbidden to eulogize someone who committed suicide.

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"And Avraham arose from the face of his dead, and he spoke to the b'nei Cheis" (23:3). This teaches us the prohibition of speaking in the presence of a dead person.

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"And Avraham weighed the money for Efron".

The word 'Efron', spelt here without a 'Vav', has the same Gematriyah as 'ra ayin' (a stingy man), because as Rashi (commenting on the same word) points out, he promised much, but did little. And what's more, it equals four hundred, corresponding to the four hundred Shekalim that he made Avraham pay for the cave.

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"Vayokom s'dei Efron " And the field of Efron 'arose' " (23:17).

The first letters of these three words spell 'Eisav', who in the not too distant future, would query his brother's rights in the cave.

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"Hashem, the G-d of the heaven He will send His angel before you " (24:7).

"His angel" implies the angel that is special to Him, with reference to the Pasuk in Ki Sisa " (32:34) " behold My angel will go before you" (which the Ba'al ha'Turim names there as Micha'el), and not just any angel, as the Torah writes there (33:2) "And I will send before you an angel".

And the Torah writes the word "his angel" twice in this Parshah, once with reference to the way to Charan, and once with reference to the way back to Eretz Cana'an.

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"And there was placed (va'Yusam ) before him to eat, but he said 'I will not eat until I have said what I have to say " (24:33).

Playing on the word "va'Yusam", which, when spelt with a 'Samech' has connotations of poison, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains that they placed poison in his food (so that he should die, and they would then take all the money that he brought with him [Da'as Zekeinim M.T]) and then quickly sat down to eat so that he should not notice.

The only other time the word "va'Yusam" appears in the Torah is at the end of Seifer Bereishis (in connection with Yosef), where the Torah writes "va'Yusam bo'Oron be'Mitzrayim", a hint that they wanted to kill Eliezer and place his body in a coffin.

But he did notice, and when he said "I will not eat until ", adding "I am the servant of Avraham", he meant that, as a servant of Avraham, he was not used to eating before reciting the B'rachos of 'al netilas yodoyim' and 'ha'motzi Lechem min ho'oretz'. He hoped that the Kos shel B'rachah would work in his favour, and his faith was well-founded; An angel came and switched round his plate with that of Besuel.

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Others explain that they placed non-Kasher food in his plate. But he realized what they had done, and responded with 'I will not eat until I have said my words I am the servant of Avraham (and I cannot therefore eat what is not Kasher)'. See also Parshah Pearls.

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THE MITZVOS AND THEIR MEANING

(Adapted from the Seifer ha' Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chincuh and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 75:

Not to Accept the Testimony of a Sinner

It is forbidden to accept the testimony of a sinful person, and not to act on such evidence in any matter, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:1) "Do not extend your hand to a Rasha to be a venal witness". The Gemara in Sanhedrin explains this as a La'av against appointing either a wicked person or a robber as a witness, precluding robbers and thieves (who are disqualified from giving evidence, as the Pasuk writes in Shoftim "A false/robbing witness shall not arise against a man") from testifying in court.

The reason for this Mitzvah is obvious, since anybody who does not care for himself or for his evil deeds, will not care for others either, in which case, one cannot possibly believe his evidence.

Some of the Dinim Of the Mitzvah Chazal list ten categories that the Torah disqualifies from testifying: a woman, a slave, a child (not yet bar or bas-Mitzvah), a person who is deaf-mute, a Shoteh (abnormal) or blind, a Rasha, someone who is exceptionally disgusting, a person who is related or biased. A woman incorporates a Tumtum and an Androginus (both of whose sex is unclear), a slave, someone who is half slave, half set-free and a Shoteh, an epileptic (at the time that he has a fit); even when he does not however, the Dayan needs to assess whether his mind is not adversely affected by his illness. Likewise, idiots who do not understand when two things contradict one another, and people whose minds become easily confused, who jump too easily to conclusions or who are crazy, are all included in the term 'Shoteh' The Gemara in Sanhedrin (24b) disqualifies a person who is considered a Rasha mi'de'Rabbanan in addition to those whom the Torah calls Resha'im. These include someone who transgresses Gezel mi'de'Rabbanan, which in turn, includes a full-time gambler, someone who indulges in pigeon-racing in built-up areas or who rears small animals (sheep or goats). The Gemara in Sanhedrin defines the difference between Pasul mi'd'Oraysa and Pasul mi'de'Rabbanan as being that the former is Pasul even before he is branded by Beis-Din as a Ganav, whereas the latter is Pasul only after he has been branded What must a sinner do to re-enter the realm of eligibility to testify? The Gemara in Sanhedrin (25a) explains that someone who is suspect on selling T'reifos must go to a place where they do not know him, and return a lost article which is of great value, or declare an expensive animal belonging to him a T'reifah. And his Teshuvah regarding other sins must be of a similar nature and all other details, are discussed there in Sanhedrin in the first Perek.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men, but not to women, who are not eligible to judge, and who cannot therefore be warned about matters concerning the witnesses. Someone who contravenes it and accepts the testimony of a Rasha and then acts upon it, has transgressed a La'av, though he does not receive Malkos, seeing as it is a La'av without an act. And besides, even if one did perform an act, such as regarding a monetary issue, it is a La'av which can be rescinded, for which there is no Malkos.

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