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PARSHAS CHAYEI SORA
Sarah died in Kiryas Arba. (23:2)
Rashi attributes the name of this city to the four giants that lived there. Horav Meir Schwartzman, zl, in his sefer, "Meir Einei Yesharim," offers an alternative explanation for this name. He states that Sarah Imeinu possessed four unique traits. First, she was a good wife, who was devoted to her husband and supportive of his spiritual endeavors, standing by his side throughout their lives together. Second, she was an exemplary mother who supervised her son, Yitzchak, dedicating herself to his spiritual advancement. She was devastated to observe Hagar's son, Yishmael, expose Yitzchak to the immorality that was endemic to his life. Sarah took immediate action by demanding that Avraham send Hagar and her son away from their home. We should note that this is the same person who opened her home to all strangers, in order to care for their physical and spiritual needs. Third, Sarah was involved with her community, pursuing acts of loving kindness and charity to help those in need. We infer this from the fact that everyone left his/her place of work to attend her funeral. Fourth, she was the spiritual Matriarch, setting the standard for Jewish motherhood. She was the paradigm of the "eim b'Yisrael," mother in Yisrael. She reached out to the pagan women to bring them closer to the Shechinah. She embodied all four models: an exemplary wife, a devoted mother, a woman of valor in her community; and the mother of Klal Yisrael. When Sarah passed away, these four attributes died with her. Her passing left a void. The giants implied in the name, Kiryas Arba, represent her characteristics.
Sarah died in Kiryas Arba...and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her. (23:2) When we think about the Avos, Patriarchs, we relate to them as people outside of the normal human dimension. This is not correct. We do not ascribe to the notion that our leaders were angels or some kind of quasi-spiritual entities. They were human beings - special human beings who worked to refine their unique spiritual attributes to become holy and virtuous, to achieve purity of mind and soul. They were, however, human beings with sensitivities and emotions over which they maintained control. This is the reason that, one who reads the story of Sarah Imeinu's death and Avraham Avinu's search for a proper site for her burial, should be overcome with emotion for our holy Patriarch.
Avraham and Sarah were an elderly couple who miraculously are blessed with a son. We cannot begin to imagine the intense love that existed between these parents and their only child. It was a terrible tragedy that this mother died before she accompanied her only child to the chupah. Do we think about Avraham as an old, feeble father, left bereft of his eishas chayil, woman of valor -- his eishas neurim, wife of his youth? Do we think about their "feelings," or do we just read the parsha and assert, "Avraham Avinu was different."
Can we imagine the old Patriarch, alone without his wife and son, who was forced to deal with pagans in his quest to obtain a burial plot for his wife? Here was a man who was world-renowned, but did not own a piece of land.
Do we understand Avraham Avinu's nisayon, test? Hashem wanted to see if Avraham could manage. Did he have the fortitude to follow it through? He did - but he suffered just like anybody else - because he was human. He felt the pain; he was broken-hearted with sorrow. Yet, he went on. He dealt with the people and provided a meaningful funeral for his beloved wife. He was human. He taught us how to grieve. He endured. He showed us the way. Otherwise, why would the Torah go to such great lengths to describe his acquisition of Sarah's burial plot? He gives us hope and the courage to go on. The Torah's narratives are lessons in how a Jew should act.
Sarah died in Kiryas Arba...and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her. (23:2) B'chi and mispeid, weeping and eulogy, are two distinct components of the grieving process. One sheds tears; one weeps at the loss of a close one. These tears are instinctive. They are responses to an emotional, welled- up heart, an expression of hurt and pain. Eulogy is an intellectual appreciation, a profound understanding of the deceased and the vacuum generated by his demise. Eulogy is thought- out; weeping is spontaneous. It would, therefore, make sense for b'chi to precede mispeid. The Torah writes the converse regarding Avraham; He first came to eulogize Sarah, and then to bewail her. Indeed, in halachah we find that the first three days of Shiva are "designated" for weeping - to let oneself go, to open up and pour out one's heart in grief and tears. The next four days are reserved for hesped, eulogy, reflecting upon the character and accomplishments of the deceased, the meaning of his loss and its profound effect upon the surviving family. Why did Avraham Avinu reverse the natural order? Furthermore, how did he control his emotions, so that his eulogy could precede his emotional expression of grief?
In his hesped on the Maharil Diskin, zl, Horav Yaakov Orenstein, zl, distinguishes between b'chi and mispeid in the following manner: When one weeps, he weeps for himself - his pain and sorrow at the loss of his relative. Mispeid is for the deceased. One eulogizes the accomplishments of the departed, bemoaning how much more he could have accomplished. We eulogize the various attributes of the deceased and reflect upon the significant goals that he will no longer be able to achieve. Indeed, when we think about it, eulogy should precede weeping because the loss of the deceased himself is far greater than one's personal loss, as expressed by a display of emotion. Furthermore, the deceased will no longer be able to serve Hashem through Torah study and mitzvah observance. Why then are the first three days of Shiva designated for weeping? It is because we are not supermen. We are not angels. When a tragedy occurs - one cries. His personal pain overwhelms him. His grief springs forth and clouds his ability to think intellectually. Only after he has let his emotions go is he ready to begin his hesped. Avraham Avinu is the paradigm of the middah of chesed, the attribute of loving-kindness. He was able to transcend his personal loss, his own pain, in order to focus instead upon Sarah's hesped. He told about her virtue, her greatness, her holiness. He described death as a loss to the world, and to Torah and mitzvos. Afterwards, he wept for himself, for his own loss -- as a husband -- of his partner in his life's endeavor.
In an alternative explanation, Horav Eliyahu Schlessinger, Shlita, notes that when a great person takes leave of this world, his loss engenders two types of grief. First, is the communal loss, the pain suffered by the tzibur, the people who have looked to this person for guidance and inspiration. This form of grief is not necessarily emotional in nature. People speak of his greatness, how he touched their lives, what they have learned from his life, and the effect of his passing upon the community. Another loss takes place that we very often ignore: the loss to his family. This leader had been a husband, a father, a brother, a son who will be sorely missed. While they will relate stories of his virtue, they are emotionally broken as well. When they weep, they cry for the loss of their loved one.
Sarah Imeinu was a great woman. As the first Matriarch, she set the standard through her actions and virtues for what a wife and mother should be. She was a klal person, a woman devoted to the community. Avraham recognized this. Avraham, however, was sensitive to another side of Sarah: She was his wife; she was his eishes neurim, wife of his youth, with whom he founded Klal Yisrael through their son, Yitzchak. Avraham wept for his wife, the mother of his son. They finally had a son from whom they had such nachas. They had so much to which to look forward - together. It was not meant to be. Sarah would not walk Yitzchak to the chupah. Do we ever think about the personal feelings that Avraham Avinu must have experienced? He transcended his personal b'chi, for the sake of the world. They should hear about Sarahs virtue and holiness. Let them be inspired by her life. Avraham placed the public eulogy before his personal mourning. This reflected the salient character which rendered Avraham a leader.
Avraham rose up from the presence of his dead, and spoke to the Bnei Cheis. (23:4)
Avraham Avinu mourned the passing of his wife. He was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of his lifes partner. Amid weeping and eulogy, Avraham stopped to meet with the people of Cheis to discuss the sale of a burial plot for his Sarah. The Torah emphasizes that he "rose up." It is not obvious that he left the presence of the dead to arrange Sarah's burial. Horav Yerucham Levovitz, zl, says that the Torah is teaching us a profound lesson with the expression, "Avraham rose up." Avraham Avinu left his mourning state to go to meet the people of the community. He "rose up." He took himself completely out of his state of grief, wiping his tears and preparing to meet the people. He was going "outside." Out of respect for the people he "put on a new face" and relegated his grief to privacy. He exerted incredible self-control over his emotions due to kavod habrios, respect for human beings.
The Torah is not stressing Avraham's physical departure from his home. It is calling attention to an emotional parting, an uplifting of one's character and spirit. Avraham Avinu put his grief aside, delaying his own pain and sorrow. Why? What was so overwhelmingly important that it took precedence over Avraham Avinu's aveilus, mourning? It was kavod habrios, respect for people. It was not proper kavod to speak to others with tears running down his face. He had to change clothes, transform his appearance, psyche himself up to meet a group of pagan businessmen. This was Avraham Avinu - and that is why he was a Patriarch. The fortitude to transcend personal grief out of respect and deference to others is a character trait imbued in us by Avraham Avinu.
Why did Avraham do this? Is kavod habrios so significant that one must drop everything - even personal grief - out of respect to others? Avraham did. Thus, it is expected of us. Why? Avraham Avinu loved Hashem and, by extension, His creations - regardless of their background and religious persuasion. This love carried on 365 days a year throughout his periods of joy and grief. He would not impose his personal "mood" upon others. People were created b'tzelem Elokim, in the image of G-d. Unless they defaced that image, they deserved his respect.
How different is Avraham's attitude and behavior from ours? The average person brings his "mood" wherever he goes. If one has a conflict or problem at home, he brings it to the office, classroom or bais medrash. After all, if things are not well in my personal life, why should not everyone around me also suffer with me? Why should I be the only one who is going through a stressful period? Avraham Avinu taught us that this is not the way a Jew is to act. We respect others; we care about others; we are sensitive to their feelings. Avraham Avinu was different physically and spiritually from the pagan populace that surrounded him. He was referred to as "Nesi Elokim," a Prince of G-d. His respect for human beings earned him the respect that he received. It might serve us well to emulate his relationship with Hashem and his fellow man.
And Yitzchak brought her (Rivkah) into the tent of Sarah his mother. (24:67)
Rashi says that Rivkah manifests a similarity to Sarah, Yitzchak's mother. When Sarah was alive, a lamp burned from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos; a blessing was to be found in the dough, and a cloud hung over her tent. When she died, these three phenomena "departed" with her. When Rivkah entered the tent as Yitzchak's wife, they all returned. Sarah Imeinu set the standard for the Jewish home. What were these qualities that set the paradigm for the Jewish home?
There is another home, the Mishkan, the place where the Shechinah reposes in the midst of Klal Yisrael. Chazal cite three supernatural phenomena that were present in the Mishkan: First, the Ner Maaravi, western-most lamp of the Menorah, burned continuously, outlasting all the other six lights; second, the Lechem Ha'Panim, twelve loaves of shewbread which were placed weekly upon the Shulchan, Table, remained fresh and warm all week. A special brachah, blessing, rested on the bread, in that even a small piece of it gave a Kohen incredible satisfaction; third, the Divine Cloud of Glory rested over the Mishkan.
The Shem Mishmuel notes the parallel between the miracles that took place in Sarah's tent and those occurring in the Mishkan. The light that burned from Shabbos reflects the type of Shabbos, its quality and holiness, experienced by the Avos. Indeed, its influence carried on into the following week. Each Shabbos they added to the holiness they had absorbed the previous week. In this manner, they increased their spiritual ascendency every week. This correlates with the Ner Ha'maaravi which continued to burn even after its "companion" lights had expired. Each day the lights were lit from the Ner Ha'maaravi, transferring the previous day's light to the day ahead. This symbolizes ascending a spiritual ladder - every day - beginning each day where one has left off the previous day, integrating yesterday's holiness with today's.
The Lechem Ha'Panim, which remained warm and fresh from week to week, and which satisfied the eater even in small quantities, signifies Hashem's ability to provide food for the entire world. The warm, fresh bread was alive with the Divine blessing, indicating that Hashem will spread His beneficence throughout the world. This brachah, blessing, was present in the Mishkan where Klal Yisrael expressed their service to the Almighty with vigor and life, holding dear the moments spent in the Mishkan infused with Divine blessing. In essence, this was typical of Sarah's life - alive - never complacent or stale in her avodas Hashem, service to the Almighty. This was indicated in her dough, as well as in the Mishkan.
Last, the Cloud of Glory that descended upon the Mishkan manifests Hashems presence to Klal Yisrael in an almost perceptible sense. This was probably the same Divine Presence that descended upon Sarah's tent. Sarah Imeinu's home was a microcosm of the Mishkan. Her home was the hallmark of what a Jewish home should be - styled after the Mishkan, the place where the Shechinah resposes. Indeed, every Jewish home should be prepared for the Shechinah's Presence.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. Who "said much" and "did not even a little"?
1. Efron. First, he was willing to give away the Meoras Ha'Machpelah for nothing.
Later, he took the payment of four hundred large shekalim for it.
TORAH THOUGHTS ON THE PARSHA
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