November 14, 1998 25 Heshvan 5758
Rosh Hodesh Kislev will be observed on Thursday & Friday, November 19 &
LOVE AND MARRIAGE by Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And [Yitzhak] married Ribkah; she became his wife and he loved her" (Beresheet 24:67)
Here we have for the first time the Torah speaking in detail about a classic Jewish marriage. The Torah says, "She became his wife and he loved her." Rabbi S.R. Hirsch notes the deliberate order of the pasuk and says, "The more she became his wife the more he loved her." Like this marriage of the first Jewish son, Jewish marriages, most Jewish marriages, are contracted not by passion, but by reason and judgment. Parents, relations and friends consider which young people are really suited for each other, bring them together and then love grows more and more the more the couple get to know each other. But non-Jewish marriages are made differently. The Oznayim LaTorah says, "Our marriages are not like those that demand 'love' before the marriage. Experience shows that marriages that are made according to the customs of our great fathers end up with love, but the other marriages that demand love beforehand end up with arguments and discord."
To some this all might sound a bit old fashioned. However, today's society by and large realizes that it's always good to go back to the old ways. Tried and true for hundreds of generations, this system has kept our people together and happy. May we all merit to see the happy marriages of all of our children, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.
A DAILY CHALLENGE by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And Abraham was old; he came with his days." (Beresheet 24:1)
What does it mean to "come with your days?" Can a person not come with his days?
There was a person who traveled to a town and visited the cemetery there. He was shocked to see all the adult graves with headstones that had the age of the deceased at three years, four years, five years, etc., and no one had any normal life span of sixty, seventy or eighty. When he questioned the townspeople, he was told that the custom of that place was not to write the actual amount of years lived on this world, but rather how much a person accomplished. Every person would be asked before he passed on to estimate how much time he spent in the service of Hashem. That is why people would only have a few years on their headstones.
This is what is meant that Abraham came with his days. Every moment of his life was used to serve Hashem. When he was old physically, he was also considered to have all his days with him. We can learn from this concept about our own lives. Although we do misvot and try to follow the Torah, how much of our days can we say is used for Hashem. If we eat and drink and sleep to be able to serve Hashem, and if we work to be able to support our families for the sake of G-d, then most of our day can be considered in the service of Hashem. Even when we play or exercise, we can do it in a way that is part of serving our Creator by keeping healthy. This way our lives will be full and we will be considered as "coming with our days!" Shabbat Shalom.
CAT AND MOUSE
"I have given you the field, and as for the cave that is in it, I have given it to you" (Beresheet 23:11)
The commentators question what caused the drastic change in Efron's attitude from the beginning of this episode to the end. At first, he offers to give Abraham the land for free, but later, he happily collects an exorbitant sum for the purchase of the land. It is clear from the pesukim that Efron was sincere when he made his first offer to Abraham. What made him change his tune and demand such a high price?
To answer this question, the Saba MiKelm relates a famous story about the Rambam, who was involved in a debate with the philosophers of his time. The philosophers argued that animals could be trained to conduct themselves with manners and etiquette like human beings. The Rambam however argued that one cannot change the nature of an animal, no matter how much training it receives. In order to prove their point, the philosophers agreed to train a cat over a specified period of time to conduct itself with social graces.
At the end of the specified time, a large banquet was planned for the philosophers to unveil their "trained cat." As the evening began, the cat walked among the large crowd on its hind legs, serving the guests as a waiter. It laid out tablecloths on the tables, and set the tables with dishes and glasses. Everyone was amazed at the success of the trainers in teaching the cat to perform.
After a short while, the Rambam removed from his pocket a small box and opened it. A small mouse darted out. As soon as the cat saw the mouse, it dropped everything it was holding, and began chasing after the mouse. The audience immediately conceded that the Rambam was right, and that even though an animal can be trained to do certain things, it could never completely change its natural tendencies.
The same holds true regarding Efron. Initially, he behaved with courtesy and kindness, offering to give Abraham the land for free. However, as soon as Abraham responded that he intended to pay for the land, Efron fell to pieces. He couldn't resist his natural urge for money any more than a cat can resist its urge to run after a mouse.
Efron's behavior is not as uncommon as we might think. Many people maintain an outward appearance of fine manners and good character traits. However, as soon as something awakens a desire within them, or someone doesn't show them the honor they feel they deserve, the facade falls away and their true nature shines through. (Lekah Tob)
SCARED TO DEATH
"And Abraham came to eulogize Sarah and weep for her" (Beresheet 23:2)
Rashi comments: "The narratives of Sarah's death and the Binding of Yitzhak follow one another, for through the announcement of the Binding, that her son had been prepared for slaughter and had almost been slaughtered, her soul fled from her and she died."
Why would a righteous woman like Sarah expire upon hearing that her son was prepared for slaughter for the sake of Hashem? On the contrary, she should have been proud!
When Sarah heard of Abraham's mission to Mount Moriah she marveled his spiritual heroism. Had she been told that Yitzhak was sacrificed, she would have been filled with joy at the fact that her son was accepted by Hashem. She, however, was told that he had almost been slaughtered.
Upon hearing this, she was terribly saddened, because she presumed that at the last moment her son was found unsuitable. Sarah feared that perhaps her influence was in some way inadequate and her education of Yitzhak imperfect. This was so profoundly saddening that her soul departed. (Vedibarta Bam)
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