Hear and Your Soul Shall Live
Insights on life from the weekly Parsha.

By: Rav Moshe Weber, Shlita, Editor: Rabbi I. Ido Weber Erlich, Shlita
Eng. Translation: Emanuel Behar, Ari Chester

Portions of the following are included in the collection of tapes: "Shemu ViTachi Nafshechem". To obtain them, call: 02-828284, or e-mail: weber@shemayisrael.co.il

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Chayei Sarah

One must passionately strive to draw close to Hashem, blessed be He.

One must perform acts of goodness every day of his life.

One must honor Hashem’s creations - his fellow man.

Insights on life: One must passionately strive to draw close to Hashem, blessed be He. How? By humbling his ego, his self, as our Sages, of blessed memory, learn from the verse - and "with him also that is of contrite and humble spirit," (Isaiah 57:15) which teaches, "I G-d am with the contrite", namely "I spread My Divine Presence, the Shechina, on he who is humble." This verse also teaches, "If the spirit of governorship comes upon you, do not rest from your place." (Sotah 5a)

Concerning this, our Sages, of blessed memory, say, "If a position of governorship comes upon you, do not rest from your attribute of humility" - remain humble. According to the Talmud (Chullin 89a), Hashem, blessed be He, said: "I bestowed my greatness upon Abraham, yet he replied, ‘I am but dust and ashes’ [Genesis 18:27]; upon Moses and Aaron, yet they replied, ‘And we are nothing’ [Exodus, 16:8]; upon David, yet he replied, "But I am a worm and no man’ [Psalms 22:7]".

What is the source in the Parsha? Sarah our Matriarch lived for, "one hundred year[s] and twenty year[s] and seven years" (23:1). Praiseworthy is he who diminishes himself in this world! He who is humble (lit, ‘small’) in this world, is enormous in the Eternal world, as we see from the verse, "Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred year [singular] and twenty year [singular] and seven years [pl]." Concerning the first 120 years of Sarah’s life, the "year" is a singular tense; whereas concerning the latter seven years, "year" is written in the plural tense.

Insights on life: One must perform acts of goodness every day of his life. Through doing so, one brings vitality into his life, as it says, "The fear of Hashem adds days [to life]." In other words, the days of one’s existence are considered ‘life.’ On the contrary, when a person neglects the performance of good deeds, he reduces the vitality of his life, and even shortens his life span, as it says, "The years of the wicked are shorted." (The Shlah HaKadosh)

What is the source in the Parsha? "Now Abraham was old, well on in years" (24:1). "There are those who are old but not ‘well on in years’ and there are those who are ‘well on in years’ but not old. Yet Abraham our Patriarch was both ‘old’ and ‘well on in years’" (Midrash Rabbah).

Insights on life: One must honor Hashem’s creations - his fellow man, as write our Sages, of blessed memory, "Who is honored? He who honors others, as it is stated: ‘Indeed, those who honor me I will Honor, and those who despise me shall be degraded’" (Pirke Avot 4:1). Indeed, the simple fact that we are all Hashem’s creations, far surpasses any superficial distinctions amongst mankind! So we must honor all people, even he who lacks prominence, according to the admonition of our sages, "Always consider in your eyes that one is like a robber and honor him like Raban Gamliel" (Kallah 89).

What is the source in the Parsha? "She [Rebecca] quickly emptied her jug into the trough and ran to the well again to draw water. She drew water for his camels." (24:20) Behold Rebecca’s virtuous wisdom and propriety in honoring all people, creations of Hashem - after Eliazer [Abraham’s servant] drank from her jug of water, some still remained. This presented her with a moral dilemma, for if she gave the remaining water to the camels, she would thereby disrespect Eliazer, as if she deemed him and the camels equal, drinking from the same jug. However, if she would have spilled out the remaining water, this would still disrespect Eliazer, as if to imply that the remaining water was sewage. Therefore, in her wisdom, she "quickly emptied her jug into the trough and ran to the well again to draw water: (24:20). She pretended as though she spilled the water, in her haste. And after she "spilled" the water, she drew fresh water for the camels. Consequently, Eliazer remained, due to the honor which Rebecca bestowed upon him. (The Shlah HaKadosh)

Themes in the Parsha

"He had seen the ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms" (24:30).

Laban’s attempts to welcome Eliazer, his hospitality, his agreement to the Shiduch (match ) of Isaac and Rebecca - all this was only for the sake of the riches and prosperity which he anticipated, as it says, "He had seen the ring, and the bracelets." He coveted such valuables and "dressed himself" with a deceitful countenance. When he heard Rebecca’s account of her encounter with Eliazer, Laban realized that Eliazer came to arrange a Shiduch. Therefore, Laban ran to greet Eliazer in the fields, in order to speak with him secretly; he said, "If you want to hand over a respectable sum of money, as a bribe, I will agree with the Shiduch; and if you don’t give me this sum, I will delay the Shiduch, for I am the boss (lit, ‘big one’) in the house". Upon hearing this, Eliazer agreed to pay this sum, since the Shiduch was from Heaven. All of Laban’s hospitality, as he welcomed Eliazer into his house and prepared for him a bed (lit, ‘straw and fodder’), resulted not from his righteousness, but from his desire to receive the bribe. Therefore, he jumped before his father, urging "It [the Shiduch] is something from G-d." He worried that the Shiduch might be delayed, and consequently he would not receive the bribe, so he proclaimed, "Mazel Tov - the Shiduch is already complete." When Eliazer saw that Laban agreed to the Shiduch, he failed to notice Laban, neglecting to give him the gold and silver. This is understood from the verse, "The servant brought out gold and silver jewelry, as well as articles of clothing, and gave them to Rebecca and gave precious gifts [only] to her brother and mother" - not Laban. When Laban realized this, he attempted to delay the Shiduch, and said, "[At least] permit the girl to remain with us for another year or ten [months]." Eliazer responded, "Don’t delay me... G-d has already shown my mission to be successful." Because Rebecca was wise and understanding, and recognized the deceit of her family, she said, "I will go" - alone, even if you [pl] don’t want me to" (Rashi 24:57).

According to the above, we must understand why the Torah says about Laban, "An Aramaean [tried to] destroy my ancestor [Jacob]" (Deuteronomy 26:5). Laban is called this since he desired the Shtar (bill of gift) that was in the hand of Eliazer; the Shtar was the title to all of Abraham’s capital, which was to be passed on to his son, Isaac.

The ways of the world (“Halichot”) are His. Do not read “Halichot” but “Halachot,” Torah laws.

"But what if the girl does not want to come back with me to this land..." (24:5)

R. Meir said that every stipulation ("tannai" or condition/agreement) which is not like that of the children of Gad and of Reuben is not a [valid] stipulation, and behold - it is written, "But if the woman will not wish to follow you, you shall then be absolved of this oath of mine" (Kiddushin 61a). Thus Rambam and Shulchan Aruch ordain that four conditions must be fulfilled in every stipulation. First, that the stipulation shall be a double stipulation. For example, "If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will cross the Jordan with you... [then you shall give them the land of Gilead as a heritage], but if they do not cross over... then they will take [their heritage among you in the Land of Canaan." Second, the positive condition must occur before the negative condition. For instance, "If the children of Gad and... of Reuben will cross..." This is the positive clause, indicating first the obligating condition. Only afterwards is the negative clause of the stipulation expressed, as in "But if they do not cross over..." Third, the required action of the stipulation must be expressed before the consequence/reward - "If... [they] will cross," and then the consequence of the action - "then you shall give them the land of Gliad." Finally, one must potentially have the ability to fulfill the stipulation, as in the case of the children of Gad and Reuben, who apparently had such potential.

From the above, certain implications regarding the laws of fasts are suggested.

There are certain Jews who desire to fast on Erev Rosh Chodesh (the eve of the new month), or various days of the week, as they do Teshuva (repentance, returning) and so forth. To properly undergo the fast according to Halacha (law), one must accept the fast upon himself in Mincha of the preceding day of the intended fast. Otherwise, the fast is not considered valid (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 562,4).

In actuality, at this point the concern arises that , for any given reason, the acceptance of the fast might be "levatalah" - the acceptance will be a waste, literally ‘null’ and ‘void’. The following advice is thus suggested: one should resolve to initiate the fast upon fulfilling a particle situation; for instance, he will learn certain Mishnayot or certain Halachot the subsequent day of the intended fast, whereupon the fast will commence. Hence, he creates a condition whereby he can annul the acceptance of the fast which he intended, if so desired. Secrets of the Torah

"And he let the camels rest... outside of the city." (24:11)

Eliazer settled the camels outside of the city, since they didn’t want to enter into a place of idol worship. This is why Laban said to Eliazer, "And I cleaned the house and prepared a place for the camels," which is to say, "I cleared the house of idols, wherefore you and the camels can enter into my place" (Siftay Cohen, from the students of the Arizal). This event, that the camels refused to approach idol worship, parallels the story of Rav Pinchas ben Yair’s donkey; for his donkey would not eat that from which Maaser was not taken.

Thus we learn from the Midrash Rabah, brought down in Ramban concerning our Parsha, "...were not the camels of Abraham our father similar to the donkey of Pinchas ben Yair?"

"And he said, Come, [You are a man] blessed by Hashem. Why do you linger outside?"

"Laban hinted to Eliazer with these words - ‘since you did the mission of Hashem with faith, therefore, although you descend from accursed ancestors, you are blessed. So he said to him, ‘why do you stand outside?’ - outside from the blessing, since you are the messenger of the blessed."

Appeasement It is from Hashem (24:50)

R’ Shmuel Shtrashun was deeply revered by all of Jewry for his brilliance in Torah. But he was also greatly respected for his devotion to the Jewish community. Among gemilus chesed (gemach) free - loan fund for the people of Vilna.

R’ Shmuel was very careful in keeping the accounts of his fund. He made certain that people repaid their loans as soon as they were due, else there would not be any funds available for other people to borrow. And he would mark everything carefully in his books.

An ordinary Jew once needed a loan of one hundred rubles for four months. He came to R’ Shmuel’s home but did not find the rabbi in. "He is in the beis medrash," he was told. The man went there and found R’ Shmuel deeply engrossed in a complex subject in the gemarah. The man laid the money in front of him. R’ Shmuel looked up, nodded, and went back to his study. The man was certain that the rabbi had acknowledged his receipt of the money and went his way.

But R’ Shmuel had only nodded automatically. His mind had been on other things. He pored over the gemarah for a long time, turning pages back and forth. When he was finally satisfied with the solution, he shut the gemarah and put it back on the shelf in the beis medrash, oblivious of the money pressed between it’s pages.

Every week R’ Shmuel would go over the gemach account books to see which loans were paid up and which still had to be collected. When he came to the name of that Jew he noticed that the loan was still outstanding. He summoned him and demanded that he repay the one hundred rubles.

"But I already paid You!"

"You did not. It is written, here, that you still owe the money."

I put the money on the table right in front of you! I paid back my debt!" the man insisted. R’ Shmuel did not remember. He demanded payment, but the man refused, claiming that he had already paid. R; Shmuel insisted that he appear before a din Torah.

All of Vilna learned about this din Torah. The man was in public disgrace. How did he dare stand up against the famous scholar? He was, in effect, calling him a liar!

The hearing took place in the beis din. Both sides were heard and the scholar’s story held more weight. The judges postponed their decision for a later date, hoping that the man would admit that he had not paid back his debt.

The poor man had no sympathizers in all of Vilna. He was considered a stubborn fool, a thief. His good name was undermined; people stopped talking to him; his son could not bear the disgrace and left Vilna altogether. Finally the man was even dismissed from his job. Still, he continued to insist that he had paid back his debt.

Time passed and R’ Shmuel happened to need the same gemarah. He opened it up and discovered the money, one hundred rubles. For a moment he was puzzled, wondering how such a large sum could have been misplaced there. Suddenly, it all came back to him. This was the missing money which the defendant had insisted he had repaid.

R’ Shmuel felt terrible. He had wronged a Jew! He had accused him falsely! Shaken to his core, he quickly summoned the man and said, "How can I possibly make amends for the anguish I caused you? I am prepared to clear your name. But will this be enough? Can this possibly compensate for your suffering?!"

The man stood before the rabbi. His face was gaunt, lined with ravages of his suffering. He said sadly, "What is done is done. My good name is already ruined. even if you were to free me of blame, people would not forget that I had once been accused of such a terrible thing. They might think that you had pity on me and wished to clear my name, but they would still consider me a thief and a liar. No, not even a public retraction would help me now. Besides, it would not bring my son back. He left Vilna out of shame."

R’ Shmuel was thoughtful for a long time, "How could he help the broken man before him, the man whose reputation he himself had ruined?" Suddenly, he had an idea. "Send for your son. Tell him to return to Vilna. I will take him as a husband for my daughter. This will certainly restore your good name!"

The man was overwhelmed. He had never dreamed of such a wonderful thing. That his son should marry the rabbi’s daughter!

The son was summoned back and the engagement took place several days later. The cream of Vilna society took part in the affair. People could not stop talking about the amazing turn of events; they could not help but marvel at the ways of Providence. "It had been decreed from birth that this ordinary man’s son was to marry the rabbi’s daughter. And how had this been accomplished? Through the mistake about the loan. How amazing were the ways of heaven.

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