by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

Parshas Chayei Sara

Last week we mentioned the list of Avrohom's ten tests according to Rabbeinu Yonah. The tenth one was the difficulties Avrohom encountered in purchasing a burial plot for his wife Soroh, the first subject in our parsha. After the most demanding test imaginable, the Akeidoh, what was the point in having another test which was far less demanding?

Possibly, if one gives his "all," he feels justified in not wanting to be bothered subsequently with relatively minor matters. For example, picture a war hero being stopped for speeding. He might feel justified in being excused for this offense, given that he had risked his life for his country. Avrohom's passing a further test after his peak test shows he did not become lax following the Akeidoh.

Ch. 23, v. 1: "Meioh shonoh v'esrim shonoh" - Rashi comments that at the age of one hundred, Soroh was free of sin just as she was at the age of twenty, the age at which the heavenly court begins administering punishment. The concept of one not being liable for heavenly punishment until the age of twenty needs major clarification. Is it possible to say that someone under the age of twenty who has transgressed a sin whose punishment is excision, kor'eis, would not receive heavenly punishment? See responsa of the Chacham Zvi #49, who offers four explanations. See also the responsa of the Nodah B'yehudoh Tinyonoh Y.D. #164 and the responsa Chasam Sofer Y.D. #155. See Shulchan Oruch O.Ch. #343 hagohoh. (Pardes Yosef)

Ch. 23, v. 1: "Shnei Chayei Soroh" - The Baal Haturim interprets this to mean the "two lives" of Soroh. Since Soroh returned to her youth at age 89 prior to her becoming pregnant with Yitzchok, and eventually aged again, she had "two lives," having experienced youth and old age twice.

The Medrash Rabboh 58:3 relates that Rebbi Akiva was delivering a lecture and his students were beginning to doze off. He told them that the reason Queen Esther merited to rule over 127 countries was that she was the descendant of our Matriarch Soroh, who lived for a total of 127 years. The Chiddushei Ho'Rim explains this as follows. His students were not as alert as they should have been. He felt it was necessary to show them how every minute counts. If Queen Esther merited to rule over a country for each year of Soroh's life, then each month brought her ruling over a province, each week a large district, each day a city, each hour a section of a city, each minute numerous blocks of the city. With this he aroused his students, showing how every minute can amass a person untold reward.

Ch. 23, v. 9: "Biktzei sodeihu" - Possibly, Avrohom is indicating that his interest was in purchasing only the cave and a path leading to the cave, the path being alluded to by the word "ES m'oras hamachpeiloh," in ADDITION to the m'oras hamachpeiloh. Therefore, he pointed out that the cave's location was at the edge of the field, which would still leave the field free for Efron's use. However, Efron responded (v. 11), "HASODEH nosati loch." If you use the cave of the machpeiloh as a burial place for Soroh, in essence I have given you the ENTIRE field with it, because I feel that the visitors to her gravesite will trample the entire area. Hence I am forced to sell you the entire field.

Ch. 23, v. 15: "Beini u'veincho ma hi" - Rashi quotes Efron as saying , "Between two LOVERS like us 400 shekel are negligible." What is the meaning of two lovers? They had never met each other before. The Holy Admor of Belz explains that this doesn't mean that they love each other, but rather, each one is a lover of something. Efron was saying to Avrohom that since you love mitzvos so much, paying 400 shekel to purchase a burial spot for your wife is nothing. Likewise, I love money, so 400 shekel is insignificant to me as well.

Ch. 23, v.16: "Oveir lasocher" - Efron's greediness prompted him to extract from Avrohom 400 shekel of coinage of the best quality. Yet, he was too embarrassed to demand this directly. When it came time to close the sale, he passed Avrohom on to his real estate agent, "oveir lasocher," who would not be bashful to demand this.

Ch. 24, v.3: "Lo sikach ishoh livni mibnos haK'naani" - Similarly, Yitzckok tells Yaakov, Ch. 28, v. 6: "Lo sikach ishoh mibnos K'naan" - Why were our Avos strongly against taking a K'naanite woman? The families that they pursued were also idol-worshippers. The Moshav Z'keinim answers that although B'suel's family worshipped idols, Avrohom felt that they pursued truth, and given the exposure to the true Hashem, they would come around. The Droshos hoRan, drush #5, answers that the K'naanites had terrible character traits. This was less desireable to our Ovos than idol worship, because there are sins that make a negative impression on soul and body, and there are those that affect the soul only. Idol worship, albeit a terrible sin, affects the soul only and does not necessarily pass on to other family members. The sins which make a negative impression on the body, and which are passed on to family members are bad character traits, e.g. hatred, jealousy, cruelty, slander, etc.

Since I mentioned the Droshos hoRan, it might be appropriate to mention a second matter that he discusses. We are aware of the recent devastating storm in Central America which has taken the lives of thousands, and caused untold misery for hundreds of thousands of people. The Ran near the beginning of drush #6 says that any calamity that befalls any nation on earth, is supposed to send a message to the b'nei Yisroel to improve their ways. If they get the message, nothing further need be done. If they don't, Hashem brings the message closer to home. He quotes Tzefania 3:6-7 that tells us this concept clearly. "I have destroyed nations, their towers have become desolate; I have annihilated their streets, left without a passerby; their cities have become ruins, empty of people, as there is no inhabitant. I said, "Only fear Me, accept chastisement," so that her (holy) abode would not be terminated, in spite of all the good that I have ordained upon her.

Ch. 24, v.4: "Livni l'Yitzchok" However in 24:40, Eliezer only mentions ''livni.'' The Beis Halevi explains that Avrohom told Eliezer to relate to the prospective mechutonim that being married to Yitzchok has two advantages. One is, "livni," he is the son of Avrohom who is a righteous and wealthy man who is respected throughout the land. The second advantage is "l'Yitzchok," that Yitzchok is a righteous person in his own right. However, when Eliezer met the mechutonim, he felt that the second point would detract from their interest. They might accept Rivka being married to the son of a tzaddik, but he did not think they would be eager for her to be married to a tzaddik. Therefore, he only mentioned "livni."

Ch. 24, v. 10: "Migmalei Adonov," Ch.24, v. 32: "Vayifatach" - Rashi in the name of the Medrash says that the camels of Avrohom were unique in that they were muzzled to keep them from eating from the fields of others. The Medrash 60:8 relates a story (Yerushalmi D'mei Ch. 1:3) of the donkey of Rebbi Pinchos ben Yair which was stolen. For three days it would touch no food. The robbers feared it would die of starvation and the stench would reveal their hideaway. They released the donkey and it returned to the home of R' Pinchos ben Yair. When he heard it braying, he had his worker feed it immediately, knowing that it had not touched any food of the robbers. The donkey refused to eat until the food was tithed.

Rav Huna asked Rav Chia, "Is is possible that Avrohom's camels needed to be muzzled? Are they on a lower level than the donkey of Rebbi Pinchos ben Yair?" The Ramban on 24:32 explains that this is a question which refutes the interpretation that "Vayefatach" means the muzzles were undone, as there was no need to muzzle Avrohom's camels. Instead, it means that the riding gear was undone. Those who interpret it to mean that the muzzles were removed would have to answer the above question. Here are some answers:

1) Avrohom muzzled his camels to teach others.

2) Avrohom did not want to take a chance at the expense of others, if perchance one of his camels would eat from someone else's property.

3) The camels Avrohom sent were part of his fleet, but not ones he personally used. Hence, he did not create an aura of sanctity which would affect them. R.P.b.Y.'s donkey was his personal donkey, which he used for daily transportation, thus allowing him the opportunity to affect the donkey.

4) Food which is untithed, tevel, is intrinsically prohibited. An animal can be trained to be sensitive to this. Stolen food is intrinsically kosher, and no animal would refrain from eating it.

5) Since the land of Canaan will eventually become Avrohom's, the theft of others' property hinges upon a time factor. We find that even tzadikim themselves would occasionally slip and eat something that was only prohibited by virtue of a time factor, i.e. before havdoloh. See Tosfos P'sochim 106b d.h. isht'li.

6) The rule is that animal owners are not responsible if their animals inadvertently eat someone else's food in a public domain, (Bovo Kama 24b). Therefore, it is difficult to train them to discern between the public domain and private property. Untithed foods are always prohibited.

Ch. 24, v. 12: "Hakrei noh l'fonai" - Eliezer asked for an OMEN to indicate that he would find Yitzchok's future wife. How could he do this as there is a prohibition of divination, "nichush" (Dvorim 18:10)? The Chidushei hoRan in Chulin 95b answers that using an omen to make decisions is only prohibited where the omen gives no logical indication towards decision making, for example, if a deer crosses one's path and he therefore refrains from taking a planned trip. If, however, it is an INDICATION in one direction or another, it is allowed. Eliezer's finding a girl who treats him with great kindness is indeed an indication of an appropriate partner for Yitzchok.

Ch. 24, v. 14: "V'hoyoh hanaaroh" - This does not mean "the girl will be," which would be expressed by "v'hoiSoh hanaaroh." Rather, it means, "v'hoyoh, if it will be that the following takes place," that "hanaaroh," the maiden to whom I will say, etc. (Moshav Z'keinim)

Ch. 24, v. 16, 18: "Va't'malei chadoh," and "Vato'red kadoh" - Rashi in v. 16 comments that Eliezer saw the water rise to meet Rivka. In v. 18, she had to lower her bucket to draw the water. Why the change? Since now she was involved in a mitzvah, she had to put in her own effort.

Ch. 24, v. 21: "V'ho'ish mishto'eh loh" - Rashi in the name of Targum Unkeles translates mishto'eh to mean "he waited." Why was he waiting? He waited to see if her act was genuine chesed or if she would end up charging him for her services.

Ch 24, v. 22-23: "Vayikach ho'ish nezem zohov - Vayomer bas mi att" - Rashi here and in v. 47, says that he first gave her the jewellery and afterwards asked who she was, so confident was he in the success of his mission. The Ramban and the Baalei Tosfos both disagree with this. In spite of the indication of the verses to the contrary, they say that he first asked who she was.

Ch. 24, v. 23,25: "Mokom lonu LOLIN" - "Vatomer...GAM mokom LOLOON" - Rashi comments that "lolin" with a YUD means sleep for one night, and that "lin" is a gerund, so "mokom lolin" means a place for the "activity of sleeping." "Loloon" with a VOV is the infinitive " to sleep" and indicates sleep for numerous nights. It is not clear to me how one night and many nights are indicated. An explanation would be greatly appreciated.

The Ibn Ezra says that "lolin" is the infinitive of the "hifil," causative form, while "loloon" is the infinitive of the simple, "kal" form. Now we can understand the difference. For one night of sleep the causative form is used, as a host PREPARES the bedroom for his guest, CAUSING him to sleep, thus "lolin" indicates for one night. "Loloon" is the simple form, to sleep. No one has to prepare for the guest on succeeding nights. After the first night of "lolin," GAM, ALSO, there is place for Eliezer for succeeding nights to sleep, "loloon."

Another possible explanation might be that some interpret the word "moluach" as salted and "moliach" as heavily salted, preserved in salt. (see N'dorim 18b and 51b) If we can apply this to lolin and loloon, then lolin would mean for a HEAVY deep sleep, and loloon for a standard sleep. Eliezer asked for a place to take a deep slumber, as he had just come from a trip. This would be for only ONE NIGHT, as on the second night he would no longer be so weary, and would have a regular night's sleep. Rivka responded that there is place also for regular sleep, indicating numerous nights. This explanation is not fully explored, and as of now, I feel it is contrary to a Yerushalmi N'dorim ch. 5.

Ch. 24, v. 31: "Pinisi habayis umokom lagmalim" - Rashi says that Lovon told Eliezer that he had removed all vestiges of idol worship. Ovos d'Rebbi Noson at the end of ch. 8 says that Lovon told Eliezer that he removed idols from, "habayis umokom lagmalim." He even removed them from the barns in which he placed the camels, as Avrohom's camels refused to enter a place of such spiritual impurity.

Ch. 24, v. 39: "U'ly" - Rashi comments that since "u'ly" is spelled without a vov, it can be read "ei'ly," to me. Eliezer indicated that if he would be unsuccessful in bringing a wife for Yitzchok from Avrohom's relatives, that possibly "ei'ly," Avrohom could turn TO ME for my daughter as a wife for Yitzchok. Why is this self interest of Eliezer shown here when he relates the story to B'suel's family, and not earlier, in his conversation with Avrohom in v. 5?

1) The Baalei Tosfos in Moshav Z'keinim answer that earlier Eliezer didn't entertain the idea of joining families with Avrohom, as "ein orur misda'bek b'boruch." However, when he came to the home of B'suel, and Lovon greeted him with the title of "B'ruch Hashem (24:31)," he felt that he had a new status of a "boruch" and expressed this self interest.

2) The Kli Yokor (24:39) and the Maharz"u on Breishis Rabboh 59, #9, say that he only mentioned this now to persuade the family to agree to the marriage, showing them that he was also interested in Yitzchok.

3) The Sfas Emes answers that in the presence of Avrohom he was not even aware of his self interest. Only after he was far from Avrohom, in a different country, did he realize it.

Ch. 24, v. 67: "Va'yeh'eh'hoh'veh'hoh" - Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says that when Yitzchok took Rivka as a wife and saw that "her actions were as proper as the actions of his mother," then he loved her. The Brisker Rov, the Gri"z, points out that in spite of all the miracles related by Eliezer which took place during his pursuit of a wife for Yitzchok, and in spite of the open miracles that Yitzchok saw upon Rivka's becoming his wife (a cloud returned over his tent, the Shabbos lights burned from Friday to Friday, the miraculous blessing in the challoh , all things that took place when his mother Soroh was alive), he did not love Rivka until he saw that her actions were in accord with the Torah.

Why does the Torah spend so much time on the details of Yitzchok's finding a wife, and by Avrohom and Soroh all we find is a verse simply stating that Avrom took Sorei as his wife (11:29)? Possibly, since she was his niece and lived in the same community, it was simply a matter of agreeing to marry. However, I heard from someone that there is an important lesson to be learned from this. The proper way to pursue a shidduch is for the young man or woman to rely greatly on their parents or parent's agent to give them guidance and even to help in the final decision making. Therefore the Torah elaborates on the shidduch of Yitzchok. Avrohom and Soroh had fathers who had totally different values from their G-d-fearing children. Avrohom and Soroh had no choice but to take their own initiative.

This is not a lesson the Torah wants to teach future generations. Hence, there is no elaboration on their pursuit of a shidduch.

FEEDBACK: Last week I mentioned a story told by haGaon Reb Moshe Feinstein zt"l. I was advised by a reader that it can be found in Igros Moshe, vol. 8, page 15. He also added on a beautiful thought. Since the daughter of Lot embarrassed herself to avoid the world making a false moshiach, she merited to have a descendant who would be the true Moshiach. Yasher Koach!


Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,

provided that this notice is included intact.

Jerusalem, Israel